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Aug. 22 — West Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jim Justice said Aug. 22 he would not support his party's presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, because “her position on coal is diametrically, completely wrong in many, many different ways.”
“I cannot be a supporter of Hillary Clinton,” Justice, a billionaire with stakes in coal companies and The Greenbrier Resort, told West Virginia's MetroNews. “Everybody had their heads stuck in the sand and said, ‘It’s over.’ I’m the one that said, ‘Wait a minute. Full stop. I’m not willing to give up on our miners. Full stop. I’m the one that said, ‘Really and truly, I believe there’s good days in front of us as far as the metallurgical market.' ”
Justice didn't say who he would support for the presidency, but he did say he would support other Democrats in the state. Clinton is expected to lose West Virginia by a wide margin in the November general election against Republican businessman Donald Trump. A May poll from Public Policy Polling had Trump beating Clinton by 27 percentage points in the state.
Clinton angered many throughout the state—the heart of coal country—when she said in March during a town hall that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” by switching to cleaner energy sources. Her supporters say that remark was taken out of context and point to her $30 billion plan to help revitalize Appalachia and other coal communities struggling with the industry's decline.
The former secretary of state, New York senator and first lady ultimately lost the Democratic primary in West Virginia to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by double digits. Clinton has vowed, if elected, to defend and build upon the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which the state of West Virginia has led the charge against.
Justice faces state Senate president Bill Cole (R) in the race for the governorship. He sought to distance West Virginia Democrats from the national Democratic Party, including Clinton.
“My reason that I ran for governor was not the presidential race, my reason I ran for governor is West Virginia and our people in West Virginia,” he said. “Just because we have a specific person that’s running for the highest office in the land doesn’t mean that I’m going to just rubber-stamp it. I don’t rubber-stamp anybody.”
Environmental advocates said they were disappointed by Justice's comments but hardly surprised by them.
“We see in places like West Virginia that there’s a big disconnect between the average West Virginian and what the political leadership is pushing,” Craig Auster, an official with the League of Conservation Voters, told Bloomberg BNA. “We continue to support Secretary Clinton and think that despite things like [Justice] said today, most Americans are eager for her to continue President Obama’s progress on climate action.”
The League of Conservation Voters isn't involved in the West Virginia governor's race, which the nonpartisan Cook Political Report currently rates as a toss-up.
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