Mitt Romney stumps for W.Va. GOP

BECKLEY – Former presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney stumped for three West Virginia Republican candidates Tuesday at the Tamarack.

Hundreds of supporters and members of the press attended the afternoon rally which followed a private fundraising event Tuesday morning in Charleston.

Romney endorsed U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Charleston, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, as well as Evan Jenkins, Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, District 3, and Alex Mooney, Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, District 2.

All four spoke to a crowd of supporters and coal miners at the ticketed event, talking about the “war on coal” by Democrats and talking about the need for a change in Washington, particularly the ouster of President Barack Obama, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Romney took particular aim at Obama’s recent energy policies which opponents say hobble the coal and power industry through broad-reaching emission standards which make the creation of new coal-fired plants impossible and the operation of current coal-fired plants difficult.

“We will have an energy policy under Republican leadership, and they will help bring it to this great state,” Romney said, referring to the Republican candidates.

Romney said under such leadership the state and nation also would see improvements in personal wages and incentives for small businesses to operate and grow.

Romney gained national attention in 2008 when he lost the Republican presidential nomination to John McCain and in 2012 when he unsuccessfully ran for president against Obama. Romney received overwhelming support from West Virginians, winning the vote in all 55 counties.

However, a group of protesters, including members of the West Virginia United Mine Workers of America and the AFL-CIO, gathered outside of the Tamarack, decrying Romney as anti-coal due to statements he made while governor concerning coal-fired plants being dangerous to public health.

Following the rally, Romney said to paint him as anti-coal is wrong and misleading.

“I did run for president twice, and I think I made it very clear in my presidential campaign that I am a friend of coal,” Romney said. “I won all 55 counties in West Virginia because I am a friend of coal, of coal miners, of coal jobs, and this president and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are not. They fight coal and they are killing coal jobs.”

Romney dismissed suggestions he might seek the presidency again in 2016, saying instead he would back a qualified candidate for the position.

“I expect to be getting behind some good people or a good person,” he said.

Capito’s Democratic opponent, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, wasted no time firing back at the high-profile endorsement, with her campaign representatives sending out a press release before Tuesday’s rally even began.

“Congressman Capito is desperately trying to hide behind other Washington politicians because she knows her record of serving Wall Street doesn’t stack up to Natalie Tennant’s record of serving West Virginia families,” Tennant spokesperson Jennifer Donohue said in the release.