WASHINGTON – U.S. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton begins a two-day tour on Monday through rural, traditionally coal-reliant parts of the eastern Appalachian region where Republican rival Donald Trump’s pro-coal, anti-trade message has resonated with economically distressed voters.
Clinton, in a move to reclaim her early pledge to focus on helping the struggling region resuscitate its economies, will meet the head of a local steel workers union, retired mine workers and others in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio affected by declining coal and steel prices.
Her pledge of more than $30 billion to help coal regions was overshadowed in March when Clinton, at an Ohio town hall, said the country would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
Clinton’s statement was seized upon by coal industry groups and Republican lawmakers such as U.S. Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, both from Kentucky, as evidence she planned to continue carrying out President Barack Obama’s regulatory “war” on coal.
Clinton immediately sent an apology letter to Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, an early supporter, pledging to “focus my team and administration on bringing jobs to Appalachia” and help its residents adjust to a wave of coal company bankruptcies and changes in the U.S. energy market.
Her decision to embark on an Appalachian tour is in part timed ahead of Democratic nominating contests in West Virginia on May 10 and in Kentucky on May 17 as she seeks to secure the nomination before the party’s July convention.
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