West Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate said Monday he would not support Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
Jim Justice, a billionaire businessman who is seeking to succeed coal country’s Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, called Clinton’s position on coal "diametrically" and "completely wrong in many, many different ways," West Virginia’s MetroNews reported.
Clinton’s popularity among West Virginia voters has significantly dropped since she defeated President Obama in the state during the 2008 Democratic primary election. Clinton only raked in 36 percent of the vote in May as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) smoothly defeated her with 51 percent of the vote.
Clinton came under fire in May after she vowed to eliminate coal jobs when asked how she would win over "poor whites who vote Republican" during a CNN Town Hall.
"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," Clinton said.
She walked back the remarks two days later after a senior adviser for Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) said he was "troubled and concerned" by the proposal and asked Clinton’s senior energy adviser to clarify.
Justice, who owns dozens of businesses that include coal companies, said he would back West Virginia’s Democratic candidates despite rejecting Clinton.
"Just because we have a specific person that’s running for the highest office in the land doesn’t mean that I’m going to just rubber-stamp it. I don’t rubber-stamp anybody," he said.
Clinton has campaigned to pour money into clean energy initiatives, including cuts to carbon emissions, citing a long-term decline in American coal jobs across the U.S.
Justice said many people are underestimating the importance coal will play in U.S. energy policy for years to come.
"Everybody had their heads stuck in the sand and said, ‘It’s over.’ I’m the one that said, ‘Wait a minute. Full stop. I’m not willing to give up on our miners. Full stop," Justice said. "I’m the one that said, ‘Really and truly, I believe there’s good days in front of us as far as the metallurgical market’"
He added that power plants in his state should be incentivized to use "nothing but West Virginia coal."