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Former coal miner announces US Senate campaign


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A laid-off West Virginia coal miner, who entered the spotlight last year after confronting presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, announced his candidacy Tuesday for the U.S. Senate.

Bo Copley listens to then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a roundtable discussion at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center in Williamson in 2016. On Tuesday, Copley announced plans to run for Joe Manchin’s U.S. Senate seat as a Republican in the 2018 election.
(AP file photo)

Jimmy “Bo” Copley II, who questioned Clinton for remarks she made about the declining coal industry, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Tuesday he intends to file papers to run for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s seat in 2018 as a Republican.

“Honestly, I just feel like we need a different kind of person,” Copley said when asked why he’s running. “Someone who’s not a career politician and someone who’s not just worried about their party.”

Raised in Dingess, Copley, 40, took a few courses at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology. He then worked for Coal Mac, a subsidiary of Arch Coal, for 11 years. He was laid off in September 2015.

According to newspaper archives, at a roundtable meeting with Clinton in Williamson, Copley handed the candidate a photo of his three children and challenged her remarks she made at a town hall.

“The reason you hear those people out there [protesting], is because, when you make comments that you’re going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs. That’s my family,” he said.

His statement referred to a CNN Town Hall in March, in which Clinton took flak for pushing a proposal for bringing renewable energy and other jobs into areas hurt by coal’s downfall.

“I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean, renewable energy as the key into coal country, because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?” she said. “We’ve got to move away from coal and other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy we rely on.”

However, political operatives used the “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” excerpt as an attack base and largely out of context.

Despite his defense of coal, Copley said West Virginia needs to diversify economically so his children can have a reason to stay in West Virginia besides working in a coal mine.

“The leadership we’ve had over the last 20 to 30 years, everyone has been so narrow minded and had their eggs in one basket, and everything in the coal basket,” he said. “While I support coal and truly believe it’s something that we depend on and need to utilize more than what we have in the last eight years, our leadership should have seen an Obama coming and an administration that would target our industry the way that it did, and we should have had something for other people to choose from.”

Ultimately, he said he believes coal will rebound. It may never hit the high watermark it left, but it can come back to some degree, though the state will need to diversify economically one way or another.

Since Copley handed Clinton the photo, he said he’s received widespread support, and been featured in news outlets such as The Washington Post, Yahoo, NBC and others.

He said this support, along with his Pentecostal Christian faith, led him to decide to run for public office. He said although he is new to politics, he believes his faith will help him in the race.

“I’m not too worried about it,” he said of the primary. “I’m fairly certain I’ll be in over my head, but I don’t think I’m in over God’s head. I’m just trying to be faithful to what I think God’s telling me to do. It’ll play itself out, either I’ll hold my own or I have no business being there.

“Either way, it’s in His hands, not mine.”

Alongside the incumbent, Copley could be facing stiff competition in the primary. U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., has said in the past he’s strongly considering running for the seat.

Also, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has been rumored as a candidate, though he has not begun fundraising yet, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

The West Virginia Secretary of State’s office has not yet received any paperwork from Copley, though filing deadlines are several months away.

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