CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's largest labor union on Monday selected the candidates it wants to endorse in November's elections -- but decided not to endorse anyone in two of the state's three races for the U.S. House of Representatives.
The West Virginia AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education agreed to endorse longtime congressman Nick Rahall in the state's 3rd District. Rahall is running against Republican state delegate Rick Snuffer.
But the committee did not endorse anyone in the state's 1st District, where Democratic challenger Sue Thorn faces freshman Republican incumbent David McKinley, or the 2nd District, where Republican incumbent Shelley Moore Capito faces a challenge from Democrat Howard Swint.
Local unions will be allowed to endorse either candidate in these two races, under state AFL-CIO policies, according to Secretary-Treasurer Larry Matheney.
In the 1st District race, Matheney said he expected construction-oriented locals would endorse McKinley, while many others would endorse Thorn.
No reason was given for the lack of an endorsement in the Capito-Swint race.
The AFL-CIO committee also endorsed five incumbent statewide officeholders, all Democrats: Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Attorney General Darrell McGraw, Auditor Glen Gainer and Treasurer John Perdue.
The convention also backed Democrats Letitia Chafin and incumbent Robin Davis for 12-year terms on the state Supreme Court.
The committee did not endorse either Democrat Walt Helmick or Republican Kent Leonhardt in the race for agriculture commissioner.
Tomblin praised West Virginia's unions for their "education programs to train workers, who have to be honing their skills as jobs change."
"We know we are having problems in the coalfields, especially in steam coal, due to the [Environmental Protection Agency]," Tomblin said, while adding that " a warm winter and the global economy" have also affected the coal market.
"We are diversifying our energy sources, but coal will still be around for a long time," Tomblin said, before turning to other energy sources.
"With Marcellus Shale, I believe we will still build a cracker in West Virginia," he said. Cracker plants are major operations that convert natural gas into: ethylene oxide, ethylene, ethylene glycol, polyethylene and acetic acid -- used to manufacture products like plastics and anti-freeze.
McGraw noted that his Consumer Protection Division has been especially active over many years.