Donald Trump may not have won any Republican delegates in Tuesday night’s Ohio primary election, but the business mogul outdid his primary opponents in one of the most hard-hit regions of the state: coal country.
Trump beat out Republican rival Gov. John Kasich in most of Ohio’s 18 coal-producing counties. Trump also won support from Ohio’s top coal producing counties, responsible for 81 percent of Ohio’s 2010 production levels based on data from the state’s coal association.
In at least two of these counties — Jefferson and Harrison — Trump snagged more than 50 percent of the vote, according to election data compiled by the New York Times.
Trump’s victory in coal country, however, was not enough to propel in to victory in Ohio over Kasich. Kasich, Ohio’s sitting governor, walked away with nearly 47 percent of the vote statewide Tuesday night and all 66 of the state’s Republican delegates.
“We’re going to go all the way to Cleveland and secure the Republican nomination,” Kasich said in a victory speech after his home state victory. “We’ve got one more trip around Ohio this coming fall and we will beat Hillary Clinton and I will become President of the United States.”
But while Kasich won Ohio by carrying the more densely-populated central and eastern part of the state, Trump’s coal country victory shows just how fed up voters in that region are with elected officials at the state and federal level.
Kasich has been governor since 2011, coming into office as Ohio was struggling through the last recession, and his tenure has been a popular one among Ohioans who gave him a 62 percent approval rating, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
Yet Kasich’s tenure has also coincided with a massive regulatory push by the Obama administration to wean the U.S. off coal power as part of his plan to fight global warming — that means shuttered mines and laid off workers.
Across the U.S., thousands of workers at coal mines and coal-fired power plant workers have lost their jobs due to falling demand for coal and tough Environmental Protection Agency regulations making it too costly to burn coal for electricity. Ohio is no exception, the state has seen thousands of mine and power plant workers laid off in recent years, in part, because of tough EPA rules.
The EPA’s latest regulation, the so-called Clean Power Plan, could do even more damage to coal country since it effectively bans new coal-fired power plants from being built. The Obama administration has even offered taxpayer grants for economic development in coal communities with high unemployment.
Democratic front-runner former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a $30 billion plan to pump money into coal communities losing jobs because of regulations, replacing them with green jobs.
“We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Clinton said at a recent campaign event. Clinton said “we don’t want to forget those people” in coal country who will lose their jobs.
Kasich is a supporter of the coal industry, always reminding voters in speeches that his grandfather was a coal miner who died of the black lung, but the governor has not gone as far as Trump has in bashing regulations killing coal states. On numerous occasions, Trump has pushed for abolishing the EPA.
“They are a complete disaster, we are going to change things around,” Trump told supporters at a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio just before the primary election.
“We have to protect your coal industry which is being decimated,” Trump said. “And we have to protect your steel industry.”
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