CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., touted his seniority in Congress and his support of the coal industry -- including the practice of mountaintop removal mining -- during a meeting with Gazette editors on Monday.
Only 11 members of the 435-member House of Representatives have more seniority than Rahall, first elected in 1976.
Rahall is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and vice chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Rahall is running for re-election against Republican challenger Elliot "Spike" Maynard, a former Democrat who registered as a Republican in Mingo County shortly before filing to run for Congress against Rahall.
Maynard did not attend Monday's candidate meeting.
Rahall, a longtime advocate for health-care reform, believes the recent health-care legislation passed by Congress will help West Virginians in several ways:
The "doughnut hole" requires Medicare beneficiaries to pay all their annual prescription costs after they spend $2,830 until they spend $6,440 -- a "hole" costing them $3,610.
Rahall also opposes free-trade agreements, like NAFTA and CAFTA, that make it easier to send products into the United States from countries whose governments subsidize major industries and have few or no laws to regulate wages, health care, workplace safety and environmental pollution.
Rahall said Maynard has signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge, which supports corporate tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs overseas. Based in Washington, D.C., Americans for Tax Reform is run by Grover Norquist.
"I have a record that is strongly pro-coal, and more importantly, pro-coal miners," Rahall added, responding to recent television ads backing Maynard that claim Rahall is anti-coal.
"I have been in the forefront of efforts to improve mine safety and black lung legislation. I have worked to shore up miners' health-care funds and pension benefits.