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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's signature industry has become the hot issue in the country's hottest political contest.
Coal is fueling the campaign for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes are each trying to prove they love coal and hate the EPA's proposed new regulations.
There are TV spots for McConnell, and a Web video by Grimes
Grimes has run newspaper ads and radio spots. McConnell introduced what he calls "The Coal Country Protection Act." The Grimes campaign has even released photos of her touring a Floyd Co. coal mine.
So, why has coal become the dominant issue in the Senate campaign?
"It ultimately comes down to jobs," said Nathan Haney, chairman of the Jefferson Co. Republican Party. "It employs thousands and thousands of people in Kentucky, and a lot of the jobs are very good paying jobs."
"We bring in companies, new businesses to this state - and businesses stay - because of the low cost of electricity," said Democratic consultant Bob Gunnell.
There's also the issue of geography. Both sides need to win the coal counties in eastern and western Kentucky.
"There's a lot of Democrats there who are conservative-minded Democrats. If they switch over and vote for Alison Grimes, it's going to be tough for us," said Haney.
"If she can't win in the east, then she's in serious trouble," said Gunnell.
And then, there's the unpopularity of Pres. Obama in Kentucky.
"She has to stand firm against the President on this. She can't be in the middle of the road. If she does, this is one of the issues - this is the issue - that can defeat her," said Gunnell.
It all adds up to a crush of coal campaigning in Kentucky.
"Jobs is the overriding issue in this election," said Haney.
WDRB has offered to host a debate between the two candidates, but they have yet to agree on the proposed format.