McConnell, GOP make gains in Kentucky coal country

coal

VAN LEAR, Ky. (AP) - Deep in Kentucky's coal country, about a mile from where coal miner's daughter Loretta Lynn was born, Mack Lowe voted for Republican Mitch McConnell for the first time in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.

"It's kind of rough seeing your neighbors struggling, hurting for work," said Lowe, a former coal miner who said all the men of his family were coal miners. "I think he'd be the man for the job by putting coal back in there. I hope, anyway."

McConnell won re-election Tuesday by tying Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes to President Barack Obama - and coal mining was a major part of how he did it. He accused Grimes of supporting Obama's energy policies, which call for lower carbon emissions and have made it difficult to replace the state's aging fleet of coal-fired power plants.

Grimes pushed back with an endorsement from the United Mineworkers of America, TV commercials showing her underground with a hard hat and coal dust smeared on her face, and campaign visits from former President Bill Clinton through Kentucky's coal country. But it did not matter on Election Day, as McConnell won the region by 64,000 votes in what was supposed to be the toughest re-election campaign of his career. Just six years earlier, McConnell won the region by 8,000 votes in a close race with Democrat Bruce Lunsford.

"She did everything from literally going down into a coal mine, the bus tours ... But it just wasn't enough," said Greg Stumbo, the Democratic state house speaker from Prestonsburg who tried to give Grimes' campaign a coal country boost.

In parts of eastern Kentucky, support for Democrats dates back at least to the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs designed to boost recovery from the Great Depression were popular in the hardscrabble Appalachian counties.

McConnell flipped four eastern Kentucky counties that he has never won before, including Pike County, the state's second-largest coal producer, and Floyd County, where Stumbo lives. The victory was so astounding it had Republicans wondering if they had altered the political landscape for good in Kentucky's coal country.

"I think more people are willing to look at Republicans than they were in the past. Mitch McConnell and (Republican Congressman) Hal Rogers have pretty much got people conditioned to vote for them," said Tom Eckert, a Perry County attorney who voted for McConnell. "It will be interesting to see what happens next."

But the Republican victory in Kentucky was not complete. While McConnell won 110 of 120 counties on his way to a 15-percentage-point victory, Republican candidates for the state House of Representatives were unable to ride McConnell's coattails to the Capitol. Republicans did not pick up a single seat in yet another failed bid to take control of the state House of Representatives for the first time since 1920. With West Virginia's House of Delegates reverting to Republican control for the first time since the 1930s, it leaves Kentucky as the only Southern state with a Democratic majority in the state legislature.

"It's obvious that people weren't totally upset with all Democrats," Stumbo said. "It was a backlash against the president of the United States."

And that's where Grimes went wrong, said Ned Pillersdorf, a Floyd County attorney who doubles as a Democratic campaign consultant for local candidates. If you stop 10 people on the street in Floyd County, he said, eight will tell you the president wants to ban coal mining, "and you can't convince them otherwise." Grimes, he said, had a tool to push back against the demonization of the president by touting the success of the Affordable Care Act, which has lowered Kentucky's uninsured rate to roughly 10 percent from 20 percent.

"She should have defended the Affordable Care Act, which would have worked to un-demonize the president," Pillersdorf said.

Grimes did defend kynect, Kentucky's health insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, but it never made it into her TV commercials and was rarely mentioned in her stump speech.

McConnell has not let up on his coal rhetoric, even after being re-elected. On Wednesday, McConnell described Obama's energy policies as a "war on coal" and an abuse of presidential power that he would try to curb as majority leader.

"Look for us to go after those kinds of things through the spending process, which I think is our best tool in our governmental system," he said.

Subscribe to Power Engineering magazine



2014 Articles

Harvard Law School professor pays Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional

12/31/2014

Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University and former mentor to Barack Obama, said in an article last week that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional.

3 SKorea workers die at nuke plant construction site

12/30/2014

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Three South Korean workers died Friday after apparently inhaling toxic gas at a construction site for a nuclear plant being built by South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company, which has come un...

UMaine in business of certifying turbine blades

12/30/2014

ORONO, Maine (AP) — The University of Maine has tested its largest wind turbine blade to date. UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center completed static strength testing this month of a 184-foot-long wind turbine...

Mergers, EPA carbon plan generated much attention during 2014

12/29/2014

Mergers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan, cheap natural gas and the polar vortex were among the most noteworthy generation stories of 2014.

Developer opens Ohio review for 800-MW, gas-fired project

12/29/2014

Clean Energy Future-Lordstown LLC plans an 800-MW, gas-fired power project, and on Dec. 24 applied with the Ohio Power Siting Board for certain routine waivers it needs before filing a full siting application for this proj...

New England utility exec named to Vermont PSB

12/29/2014

A woman who worked for Vermont's Department of Public Service for 17 years is going to become the next member of the utility-regulating Public Service Board. The appointment of Sarah Hofmann was announced Monday by Gov. Pe...

Brown picks aide to lead troubled California utility board

12/29/2014

Gov. Jerry Brown named a former adviser on Tuesday to be the next head of California's troubled utilities commission, replacing a regulatory chief accused of back-channel dealings with utilities. Michael Picker, a former a...

Washington state carbon emissions dropped in 2011

12/29/2014

Greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state dropped by about 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2011, led by reductions in emissions from the electricity sector, according to the latest figures released by the state. The latest...

Group wants state regulators recused from PNM case

12/29/2014

State regulators in less than two weeks are to begin deliberating a proposal that calls for shutting down part of an aging coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico that serves more than 2 million customers in the ...

Vermont Yankee plant prepares to shut down

12/29/2014

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is getting ready to shut down. Its owner, Entergy Corp., says it is closing the plant for economic reasons. The plant in Vernon is expected to disconnect from the regional power grid Monday.

PSEG Solar to acquire Maryland solar project from juwi

12/23/2014

PSEG Solar Source will acquire a 12.9-MW solar energy facility near Waldorf, Maryland from juwi solar (JSI). The PSEG Waldorf Solar Energy Center will increase the capacity of PSEG Solar Source's portfolio to 123-MW.

PG&E discloses more emails with state regulators

12/23/2014

California's largest power utility released a dozen more emails Monday that it said showed improper back-channel discussions between the utility and top state regulators.

Indianapolis airport solar farm expansion completed

12/23/2014

Contractors have finished bringing online dozens of acres of solar panels at Indianapolis International Airport, solidifying its status as the home of the nation's largest airport-based solar farm.

French power company to pay $772M in bribery case

12/23/2014

A French power and transportation company has agreed to pay $772 million to resolve allegations that it bribed high-ranking foreign government officials for lucrative projects, the Justice Department said Monday.

Nebraska nuclear plant back online after short outage

12/23/2014

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant is back online less than a week after its main generator unexpectedly shut down as a precaution.

Ameren Missouri plans $135M in energy efficiency

12/23/2014

Missouri's largest electric company said Monday that it plans to invest $135 million in energy efficiency programs for customers over a three-year period.

TEPCO completes nuclear fuel assemblies removal from Fukushima 4

12/22/2014

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said it has safely removed the fuel assemblies from the most damaged nuclear reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

B&W Vølund to build waste-to-energy power plant in Scotland

12/22/2014

In a consortium with Interserve, Babcock & Wilcox Co.’s (B&W, NYSE:BWC) subsidiary, Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S (B&W Vølund), will engineer, procure and construct (EPC) a waste-to-energy (WTE) power plant f...

SKorea holds N-plant drills against cyber threats

12/22/2014

South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company said it began drills Monday against possible cyberattacks after online threats of attack against its plants.

PSC approves solar power project

12/22/2014

The Public Service Commission has approved solar power project planned by Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric in Mercer County.

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now

Whitepapers

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...

Leveraging the Power of Information in the Energy Industry

Information Governance is about more than compliance. It’s about using your information to drive ...

Reduce Engineering Project Complexity

Engineering document management presents unique and complex challenges. A solution based in Enter...

Revolutionizing Asset Management in the Electric Power Industry

With the arrival of the Industrial Internet of Things, data is growing and becoming more accessib...