Is Coal Josh Mandel’s Ticket to the Senate?
Here’s a commercial you can’t escape, if you live in the Buckeye state:
On Saturday morning, during the local newscast, it was played once every hour.
Energy, and the jobs that come with it, is big here in Ohio. And in other places that might only get attention during a presidential election year: the poorer, more rural areas of our neighboring states: Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia. Places that yield coal. Or used to.
The industry was already enduring a seasonal downturn after a warm winter that kept demand for coal low. It faces growing competition from cheap, abundant natural gas. And it was struggling with the Environmental Protection Agency’s crackdown on permitting for mountaintop removal mines and tougher clean-water standards.
Then old, inefficient power plants started shutting down, too, cutting off a traditional market for Appalachian steam coal.
Operators had to adjust, and that translated to layoffs — 800 alone last month when Alpha Natural Resources shut down eight Appalachian mines….
“….These layoffs affect families — wives, mothers, grandmothers, kids, grandkids,” says Jesse Salyer, the 52-year-old president of a Pikeville energy company that leases land and mineral rights to coal operators. “It’s just a real miserable time here in the coalfields.
Coal has wider implications nationally, since it’s also important in parts of Pennsylvania and Colorado. But it’s possible that the biggest victory the GOP will garner from the energy debate in this cycle will be enjoyed in Ohio– by State Treasurer Josh Mandel. Today’s new Rasmussen poll shows him tied with ultra-liberal Sherrod Brown for the U.S. Senate seat. Like President Obama, Brown has been no friend to the coal industry.
“I hear about it all the time, especially in Appalachian Ohio,” Mandel says of discontent with the administration’s coal policy. “In Ohio, coal equals jobs, and over 80 percent of our economy is powered by coal. There are direct coal jobs in eastern and southeastern Ohio, but there are also a ton of manufacturing jobs throughout the state that are made possible by affordable, reliable, dependable coal energy. The Obama war on coal is putting folks out of work.”
And the voters understand that. “When we started this campaign, we were losing in southeastern and eastern Ohio — Appalachian Ohio,” Mandel says. “Now we’re winning there, and a lot of it is based on energy issues.”
Another positive note for Josh Mandel: on Friday, he received the endorsement of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Edit.1: Mandel will be getting support in person from the great SC Senator Jim DeMint and SD Sen. John Thune on Oct. 23, at an event in the Cincinnati area. Details to come…