Trouble Brewing For Joe Manchin in WV Senate Race

(Crossposted on FDL Seminal)

Hello again MyDD community, it has been awhile since I've posted on here.

Up until now, Governor Joe Manchin (WV) has been riding the tide. He’s had 50%+ approval ratings for the majority of his gubernatorial stint (with an astounding 80% in January of 2006), is a recognizable name in West Virginia, and has made his name known on the national scene by being the leader that carried the Mountain State through the coal mining tragedies in the past years.

Manchin declared his candidacy for the United States Senate shortly after long-time serving West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd passed away. Most saw this as a clear victory for Manchin. His primary foes didn’t amount to much of a competition (despite a candidate solely running on Mountaintop Removal-Related Issues) and Governor Joe seemed slated to keep the Senate seat for the Democrats for the midterm elections.

However according to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) Poll released earlier this week, Manchin was down 3 points to the GOP contender John Raese. (Albeit, a Rasmussen Poll has Manchin up 7 points). This is leaving the West Virginia Republican Party salivating at the prospects of an upset.  . . .

"Our folks are jacked up," said Jim Dornan, Raese’s campaign manager.

Rasmussen Reports, based on its findings from a survey on Sunday, said the race went from the Toss Up to again in the Leans Democrat category in its Election 2010 Senate Balance of Power rankings. Manchin has a 50 percent to 43 percent lead over Raese, Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen polled 750 likely voters on Sunday. Two weeks ago Rasmussen called the race a toss-up with Manchin favored by 50 percent to Raese’s 45 percent.

(Source: Parkersburg News)

This isn’t Raese’s first attempt at Electoral glory in the Mountain State. Raese has attempted, a number of times, to unseat West Virginia notables like Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, and even Former Republican Governor Arch Moore. All of these attempts have left Raese unsuccessful at gaining office. This looks to be Raese’s best chance yet at getting elected.

Raese has made his name known across the mountains and valleys of West Virginia by running an ad stating that he will not be "a rubber-stamp to Barack Obama." As cheesy and lame as it sounds, it will most likely have an effect on voters in West Virginia given that the state voted overwhelmingly for McCain in 2008.

All Obama, All The Time: Raese may be running against Manchin, but his campaign will be focused on Pres. Obama. Obama’s poll numbers in West Virginia are among his worst in the country. As one West Virginia Republican put it, "he’s despised here." Republican polling has found that Obama’s disapproval is climbing toward 70% and support for health care reform isn’t much better.

Raese will nationalize the race and Republicans believe he stands to benefit from the strategy in a big way. To do this, he’ll seek to tie Manchin to Obama with steel ties. Raese will particularly target health care reform and cap and trade legislation — two issues that West Virginians strongly oppose. This strategy is apparent in one of his latest ads.

"Joe Manchin’s been supporting Barack Obama’s liberal agenda for years," the narrator says. "Manchin supports Obama’s government run health care and its $400 billion in Medicare cuts…We can’t afford Joe Manchin in the Senate as a rubber stamp for Obama." Expect to see plenty more like that.

(Source: Hotline On Call)

Years?  It makes it sound like Obama has been in office longer than 20 months.  Oh well, that Raese sure is a strange one!

Manchin’s lead in the race has been slowly dwindling. West Virginia is a peculiar state. In the past 3 Presidential elections, West Virginia has voted (mostly by a decent margin) for the Republican candidate. However, only one GOP member is currently seated in Congress from the state (Shelley Moore Capito). It will be interesting to see how this Senate race plays out.

Manchin is highly regarded across the state, but as of late has taken some controversial positions on hot-button issues like the Bush Tax Cuts. The West Virginia AFL-CIO was disappointed and "taken aback" by Joe Manchin’s support for the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts.

On Wednesday, Manchin said he believes Bush-era tax breaks should be extended for all Americans, including the wealthiest. The governor said the federal government should seek ways to be more efficient before asking people of any income level to pay higher taxes in a recession.

Matheney (WV AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer) on Thursday said those statements are disappointing.

"When there’s a tremendous outcry about deficit spending, to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest in the belief that it’s somehow going to stimulate our economy, it defies logic," Matheney said. "I think anyone supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest is disappointing, and it was surprising."

(Source: Charleston Gazette)

This will most likely not sit well with Democrats in the state. West Virginia is by no means rich. In fact, it is one of the poorest states in the Union (I believe Mississippi is the only state to have a lower income level). Manchin’s argument has a foundation on the age-old belief that you shouldn’t raise taxes during a recession. What is ironic about this stance, which most GOP members of Congress support, is that we can’t afford to extend the Bush Tax Cuts. This would increase the deficit even more, something Republicans have been harping about for months now. It would make more sense to give tax breaks to the Middle-Class, especially in West Virginia’s case, so that people can start spending again.

Anyway, enough Bush Tax Cut rants.

The Raese-Manchin matchup slated for November will be a defining race in West Virginia’s history. Will the state choose to stick with tradition and keep a Democrat they’ve had good feelings about for the past 8 years or will voters be swept up in the GOP tide and vote in Businessman Raese.

Raese is the typical Republican. Need proof? Just visit his website and click on his bio tab. The first thing you see after you click on it is a picture of Raese decked out in a flashy suit clutching a rifle with the all too familiar tagline that reads "NRA Lifetime Member." Nothing like guns to court the West Virginia vote.

This shake-up could be a defining moment, not only for West Virginia, but the United States Senate as a whole.

Hold on to your hats, this one is going to get interesting.

WV: More Massey Madness and the ongoing Paradox of MTR Oppositions

If you live near the West Virginia coal fields and mines, you certainly know what the acronym MTR stands for. If you live in West Virginia at all and keep youself even slightly in tune with the "goings on" of the state, then chances are great that you will be familiar with the three-letter phrase yourself.

MTR is short for the dreaded MountainTop Removal mining method that quite literally lives up to its namesake. It ravages and rapes the state of its natural beauty while causing numerous unintended health and environmental effects hazardous to the way of life of the people living near these sites. The Mountain State is quickly turning into the plateau, bluff, and coal slurry state without much opposition from those who lead the state in Washington and in Charleston.

Recently the EPA has issued more guidelines in regards to the mining technique

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just posted a new guidance document for Appalachian strip mining on its Web site.

It’s called “Assessment of Stream Ecosystem Structure and Function Under Clean Water Act Section 404 Associated with Review of Permits for Appalachian Surface Coal Mining.”

Neither EPA nor the Army Corps of Engineers have formally announced the issuance of this guidance, which appears to have been posted pretty late on a Friday afternoon.

But the issues dealt with in the guidance are the same as those raised in a March 2007 ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers: Whether government agency reviews of mining permits adequately consider impacts on not just the “structure” of streams, but also the important ecological “functions” served by those streams

 

Source: Gazette’s Coal Tattoo

Without a solid force against MTR, the state will continue to function its coal economy and income based on this method. Its cheaper, easier, and requires less miners to perform the tasks necessary to complete the job. The after-effects are mammoth in size and people all across the state are left to clean up the mess and live with the coal slurry deposits and several other hazardous aftershocks of this haphazard and carefree way of mining coal.

West Virginia’s special senate election could be the first real breaking point for this method of mining. Ken Hechler (albeit 95 years of age) is gunning for the democratic nomination this august to fill Robert C. Byrd’s vacated seat in the Senate. His soul purpose for running, as mentioned in a previous blog, is his opposition to Mountaintop Removal Mining. Hechler isn’t slated to make a big run at the seat, and even claims that he isn’t using much of his own financial resources to help his chances. He is running solely to oppose MTR and send a message across the state and country where he stands on the issue and where his backers also stand. We need more people like Ken Hechler taking a stand for whats right in West Virginia and falling in line to back an opposition to MTR.

Governor Joe Manchin is pretty timid when discussing issues of MTR. He doesn’t outrightly throw his entire support into MTR, nor does he oppose it either. Hechler claims that Manchin doesn’t give enough care and attention to those affected by the Mountain stripping method.

"I think he has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of those people that are adversely affected by mountaintop removal," the former congressman and secretary of state said at a Capitol news conference to discuss his campaign.

Hechler and Manchin are both seeking the seat left empty by the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd. They are joined in the Democratic primary by former state Delegate Sheirl Fletcher.

Charleston Gazette

Hechler doesn’t have a super strong campaign or following, his followers even express doubt of his chances of winning… but I truly admire the reason he chose to run at the ripe old age of 95. He would be older than Robert C. Byrd was when he died if he actually got elected.

As promised! A Massey Energy Idiotic Update!!!! Those who frequent the Massey Trend will be so excited that there is yet another installment, so I hope I don’t disappoint!
After the news release a few weeks ago about Massey Energy having their Methane monitors disabled, damage control naturally ensued on the parts of Grandwizard Blankenship and his coal-black posse of corporate power.

Recently mentioned in Coal Tattoo (a blog on the WV Charleston Gazette Website dedicated to the interests of coal and news about it in WV) was a piece about Massey Energy officials meeting with the families of employees and sounding off on the story that the methane monitors had not been disabled in the Upper Big Branch Mine prior to the disaster earlier this year. And of course that Don Blankenship would never tell a lie in the world so this must be true…..

Massey Energy officials have said they want an open, transparent and complete investigation of what caused the deaths of 29 mines at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., four months ago.

But today’s Massey briefing for families of the miners who died was held behind closed doors. Three uniformed Charleston Police Department officers guarded the door of the ballroom at the Embassy Suites Hotel.

CEO Don Blankenship declined to talk with reporters afterward, and his general counsel, Shane Harvey, only took a couple of questions in a brief session with the media following the meeting.

The news release didn’t say a whole lot, either, but here’s the quote from Blankenship about the purpose of the meeting:

The purpose of today’s meeting was to keep the families informed of key developments associated with the UBB investigation. Massey Energy will continue to do our part in updating families on key information obtained during this continuing inquiry.

The key thing being pushed today seems to be the idea that Massey has concluded from the evidence available thus far that methane monitors in the mine’s longwall section had not been disabled prior to the April 5 explosion that killed 29 workers.

Coal Tattoo

The families of the deceased miners, and the ones still working for Massey, deserve to know the truth about what happened in that mine prior to the explosion and on the day of. Massey Energy has not done a good job at being transparent and coherent enough to the downtrodden families and its wrong and sad. Show some moral integrity Blankenship! If any exists in that coal-baron body of yours.

More Soon! If you are interested in following the coal news in West Virginia check out coal tattoo or follow @kenwardjr on twitter for the best updates

Massey Energy In the Hot Seat Again

As sad as it truly is, I am no longer surprised when I read horrific headlines about Massey Energy. Since the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, Massey Energy and Don Blankenship have become synonymous with neglect, crookedness, and wrong-doings. This recent headline, found on Charleston Gazette’s Coal Tattoo, is certainly no different. The headline reads "NPR report: Massey Energy ordered methane detector disabled at Upper Big Branch Mine."

Now, it has been awhile since I’ve posted on the Seminal about Blankenship or Massey. (Due to African excursions and summer jobs, I’ve had my hands quite full the past few months. However, for those of you who are first time readers or who may not remember, here is a refresher on some things.

First off, the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in Raleigh County West Virginia was one of the biggest mining disasters the US has seen in a very long time. Massey Energy and Don Blankenship were not seen in a very bright light afterwards.

I’m crossposting a segment mentioned in Coal Tattoo, but ultimately was found on NPR and reported by them in regards to the methane monitor.

On Feb. 13, an electrician deliberately disabled a methane gas monitor on a continuous mining machine because the monitor repeatedly shut down the machine.

Three witnesses say the electrician was ordered by a mine supervisor to “bridge” the automatic shutoff mechanism in the monitor.

Methane monitors are mounted on the massive, 30-foot-long continuous miners because explosive gas can collect in pockets near the roofs of mines. Methane can be released as the machine cuts into rock and coal. The spinning carbide teeth that do the cutting send sparks flying when they cut into rock. The sparks and the gas are an explosive mix, so the methane monitor is designed to signal a warning and automatically shut down the machine when gas approaches dangerous concentrations.

“Everybody was getting mad because the continuous miner kept shutting off because there was methane,” recalls Ricky Lee Campbell, a 24-year-old coal shuttle driver and roof bolter who witnessed the incident. “So, they shut the section down and the electrician got into the methane detector box and rewired it so we could continue to run coal.”

The continuous miner was working in an entryway about three miles from the location of the deadly explosion in April. Campbell and other mine workers were getting the section ready for mining. The continuous miner was cutting into the roof to make way for a conveyor belt and was cutting into both rock and coal, according to Campbell.

“I asked them, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Campbell says. “And they told me, ‘We’re bridging a methane detector. We’re bypassing it,’ is what they said.”

Coal Tattoo

It is very disheartening to hear about the things this corporation manages to get away with. The bad things keep piling up for ol’ Blankenship, and yet nothing has been done to remove the man that has actually materialized into something promising. My hopes are that one day, the coal miners of West Virginia (and everywhere) will be able to feel safe and know they are in good working conditions every time they step into a mine.

What Do Hamid Karzai, Lindsey Graham, and the Stock Market Have in Common? (And Some Great WV Elections!)

I haven't put out a diary in awhile, and therefore it makes me sad.  So in celebration of the end of my hiatus amongst the blogosphere, I have a diary of quality substance with several different stories chocked into one...hopefully.

Anyway, to answer the question posed by the title of this diary now.  What Do Hamid Karzai, Lindsey Graham, and the Stock Market all have in common?  If you answered that they were all mentioned by the media as potential SCOTUS nominees, you may partially be correct... but not for the context of this diary.  Though this title doesn't really pertain to the actual substance of the diary, I just wanted to point out that all three are incredibly moody.  I wish to see the day where Karzai and Graham both have Facebook and update their statuses with how great their day went, then 10 minutes later put up an emo status about how much their lives suck and how they really don't think its time to push that climate bill or "I'll just haul myself over to Taliban HQ and see what America thinks of THAT!"

Okay....  so now for real substance, sorry I just figured some lame comic-relief was needed.

Election day is today in West Virginia and I personally can't wait.  I will cast my vote, and not reveal who it is I am voting for.  The first Congressional district is up for grabs and it should indeed be an exciting race!  State Senator Michael Oliverio is up for the Democratic Party's nomination, against incumbent virtuoso Alan Mollohan (D-WV). I haven't found any recent reliable polls so the race is pretty up in the air.  The winner of this primary challenge will face the winner of a slew of Republican candidates.

In West Virginia's 1st Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., faces state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, for the Democratic nomination to the seat. The nominee will face the winner of the Republican primary in the Nov. 2 general election. The six GOP hopefuls include Cindy Hall, Patricia VanGilder Levenson and David B. McKinley of Wheeling, Sarah Minear and Mac Warner of Morgantown and Thomas Stark of Parkersburg.

Source:  Wheeling Intelligencer

In my opinion, I think the district will stay blue regardless however it will be a battle.  

Not in the national spotlight but still an awesome story, is a race in the West Virginia House of Delegates.  David Eplin, a Democrat from Logan County, set out in a unique way to file his candidacy for House of Delegates.

When David Eplin traveled from Logan County to Charleston to file paperwork at the secretary of state's office this week, he took the typical route: U.S. 119.  But the 23-year-old says he trekked the 40-some miles by foot.

Eplin, a Chapmanville resident, is running for a seat in the House of Delegates 19th District. The Democrat works as a warehouseman at the Pepsi Bottling Group in Logan.

He wanted to prove his dedication to potential constituents, he said. So he walked -- and sometimes ran -- to the Capitol.

Source:  Charleston Gazette

A unique, and dedicated, way to file your candidacy and show the voters of your district that you care about them and want to serve them well.  This should come as now surprise, the citizens of West Virginia are among the most caring and thoughtful individuals this state has to offer.  Election day is going to be an exciting day, and I look forward to bringing a full report once results come in.

 

Federal Criminal Probe of WV Mine Disaster, in Wake of Another Mine Tragedy in KY

Earlier this week, it was saddening and unfortunate to hear of two deaths in a Kentucky coal mine operation.  Two men were found dead in the Dotki Mine, in Hopkins Co, Kentucky. The mine is associated with Alliance Resources and is, yet again, a non-union operating mine.  Tragedy struck when the roof of a portion of the mine collapsed. 

The mine was reported to have had a large fire that caused a lot of damage back in 2004.  

Some may not recall that the Dotiki Mine was the scene of a major fire on Feb. 11, 2004. The blaze caused no injuries, but it took several days to extinguish the fire and several weeks to restore the mine. The effort also demanded considerable resources from MSHA.

source:  MSHA Staffer Kathy Snyder

The rise in mining related deaths in the recent month has prompted President Obama and his administration to take a deeper look at the MSHA organization and increasing mine safety in the U.S.

The Bush Administration did a poor job in improving MSHA and mine safety throughout the country.  Elain Chao, coincidentally Sen. Mitch McConnell's wife, was Secretary of Labor under Bush.

Once Elaine Chao, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell's wife, became Secretary of Labor, which oversees the MSHA, she, according to Jack Spadaro, an MSHA engineer investigating the spill, put on the brakes. Two years later, Massey was assessed a slap-on-the-wrist $5,600 fine. The same year, Massey's PAC donated $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was chaired by McConnell. And Massey's CEO Don Blankenship has personally donated millions to the campaigns of judges and politicians.

Courtesy of Arianna Huffington

Conflict of interest much?  I Shall let you draw your own conclusions.

Here is President Obama's statement after the Kentucky mine tragedy

I am deeply saddened by the loss of two miners in Kentucky, and my thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones they left behind. As I said after the tragedy in West Virginia, I refuse to accept any number of miner deaths as simply the cost of mining. It is the responsibility of all of us, from mine operators to the federal government, to prevent such tragedies from happening again. That is why my administration is taking steps to demand accountability for safety violations and strengthen mine safety so that all of our miners are protected.

Thanks to the Charleston Gazette, and everyone at Coal Tattoo, for the ongoing news and coverage of anything mine related in Appalachia.

Another source of information from Coal Tattoo is in regard to Massey Energy.  A federal criminal probe is currently underway after the Upper Big Branch mine disaster earlier in April that killed 29 miners in Raleigh County West Virginia.  

A federal law enforcement official says the FBI has interviewed nearly two dozen current and former employees of Massey Energy in a criminal probe of the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 men.The official says in the interviews over recent days the FBI has been looking for any evidence that the company engaged in criminal negligence.

Several other sources, besides this report from AP, are also commenting on the investigation including Reuters and NPR.  NPR aired news that there is an investigation going on involving bribery of federal MSHA officials, but according to sources at Coal Tattoo this is wrong/has not been confirmed. 

More updates to come I'm sure.

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