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Regional Race Update: Coal Motivates Region’s Voters

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Key races across Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia went to candidates who showed strong support for coal.

Coal operator and billionaire Jim Justice won the governor’s race in West Virginia, one of the few Democrats to prevail in the region’s statewide races. Justice got the United Mine Workers endorsement despite his failure to pay $15 million in taxes and mine safety fines.

Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey held onto his seat. Morrisey gained notoriety for leading the state’s challenge to the federal Clean Power Plan, which would limit emissions from coal power plants.

With control of the U.S. Senate in play, races in Kentucky and Ohio gave Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell some help in maintaining his hold. Incumbents Rand Paul and Rob Portman both won handily, and both advertised heavily on support for the coal industry.

Jeff Young is managing editor of the Ohio Valley ReSource, a journalism collaboration led by Louisville Public Media.