CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Leaders of four West Virginia business and labor groups this week vigorously defended their endorsements of Democratic incumbents Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for re-election next month.
The Republican Party and its candidates -- John Raese for senator and Bill Maloney for governor -- have been running television and Internet ads claiming Manchin and Tomblin are hurting the coal industry and killing jobs.
The groups endorsing Manchin and Tomblin include: the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the West Virginia Coal Association and the United Mine Workers of America.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said, "Throughout his career, Earl Ray has been very supportive of the coal industry. Coming out of Logan County, he understands the coal industry. He wants it to succeed because he understands it vividly, having grown up with it.
"With Joe, it's been the same way. In his public life, he has always been supportive of the industry. Now he is in Washington trying to educate other senators about how coal is needed and how critical it is to West Virginia."
One of Raese's billboards reads: "Gang of Four, End of Coal. Jackson, Manchin, Roberts, Obama" -- referring to Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Manchin; Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers; and President Barack Obama.
Phil Smith, the UMW's national spokesman, said such ads and statements "are clear signs of campaigns grasping at straws.
"Anybody who knows anything about the coal industry in West Virginia knows Joe Manchin and Earl Ray Tomblin have been longtime supporters. And we have no doubt they will continue to be."
Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said his organization has a "member driven" process of choosing which candidates the chamber backs.
"We go to our members and ask them who they are inclined to support. It is not a staff-driven process, but a member-driven process. Our members overwhelmingly said they support the re-elections of Sen. Manchin and Gov. Tomblin."