CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ken Hechler on Wednesday accused fellow Democrat Gov. Joe Manchin's administration of "double talk" and threw his support behind the Mountain Party's Jesse Johnson in West Virginia's special election for U.S. Senate.
The former congressman and secretary of state endorsed Johnson at a press conference at the state Capitol, saying Johnson shares his ideals.
Johnson is running against Manchin and Republican John Raese in the November general election to replace the late Robert C. Byrd, who died June 28.
Hechler ran in the August primary almost solely on his stance against mountaintop removal. He received 17 percent of the Democratic vote, compared to 73 percent for Manchin.
On Wednesday, Hechler attributed the loss to his age, saying he does not believe the results reflect the true level of opposition to mountaintop removal in West Virginia.
"People were voting not against mountaintop removal, but were actually voting against my age of 95," he said.
Johnson doesn't have that "handicap," Hechler said.
"He's 51 years old," Hechler said as he introduced Johnson, who also opposes mountaintop removal. "Compare that with a 95-year-old, and you'll see why you're going to have a huge outpouring of support for Jesse Johnson."
Johnson has previously run for governor, U.S Senate and president. He said he would run a grass-roots campaign and stand up to rich and powerful interests.
"It's time for business as usual to be over," he said.
West Virginia could develop a "new coal economy" based on the manufacturing of carbon products, Johnson said.
Manchin has consistently favored the coal industry over the environment, said Hechler, who was joined at the podium by anti-mountaintop-removal activist Larry Gibson.