Republican Mitt Romney will campaign in Abingdon on Friday, becoming the first presidential candidate in this cycle to stump in the coalfields region of far Southwest Virginia.
Romney will appear at what his campaign is calling a “coal country event” at Carter Machinery in Abingdon at 11 a.m. Friday.
Tickets for the Abingdon event can be reserved at www.mittromney.com/states/virginia. The first 250 attendees will receive a Romney-Ryan hard hat, no doubt designed to enhance the event’s visual effect.
Carter Machinery already has hosted a Romney campaign rally at its corporate headquarters in Salem in June. The company draws about two-thirds of its business from the coal industry and employs about 1,300 people at 23 locations in Virginia and West Virginia.
Romney, U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and other Republicans have relentlessly criticized President Barack Obama for implementing environmental regulations that they consider hostile to the coal industry. Romney also has used the issue in television ads in coal-producing states.
Romney’s visit to Southwest Virginia will come two weeks after Abingdon-based Alpha Natural Resources announced that it will close eight coal mines, including three in Virginia, and eliminate 1,200 jobs company-wide.
Alpha is shifting away from thermal coal used for domestic power generation and will focus on metallurgical coal used in overseas steel production. Alpha has said the transition is necessary because power companies are relying more on cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas, and because federal regulations have put new constraints on burning coal.
Romney’s Abingdon event will be his second Western Virginia campaign stop in as many days. On Thursday, Romney and running mate Paul Ryan will hold a rally in Augusta County.
Obama also will campaign in Virginia Friday, holding an event at George Mason University in Fairfax County.
– Michael Sluss