CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A former Mingo County coal miner, vying for the seat of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), says he wants to represent the thousands of West Virginians impacted by the downturn in coal.
“Who would be better to run against someone that people have had enough of then somebody who is the exact opposite?” said Bo Copley in an interview with MetroNews Wednesday.
Copley, 40, of Delbarton, wants to challenge Manchin in the 2018 U.S. Senate race. He announced his run for the Republican ticket in a Facebook video with his wife Tuesday.
Copley became a household name in the 2016 presidential campaign when he confronted then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton about her stance on coal after hearing her say in a CNN Town Hall the month before: “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Clinton later apologized to Copley and told him she misspoke.
But seeing Manchin beside Clinton at the Williamson Town Hall — where hundreds of protesters lined the street — “didn’t sit right” with Copley. He said Manchin’s “unwavering support” of the former Secretary of State was enough to motivate him to run for office.
Copley said he showed Clinton a picture of his children that day to represent the future of a now-dying coal industry in the Mountain State.
“How can you make comments about taking jobs away from people and look at the children of those people in the face and still be able to make those kind of comments?” he reflected.
Throughout his campaign Copley said he plans to focus on diversifying the economy. He said he believes coal will never rebound to what it was a decade ago and that West Virginians need new career paths in order to stay in state.
“I want my kids to be able to grow up here and say ‘I want to make a living, but I don’t want to work in a coal mine.’ Well, guess what? You have options,” he said. “I strongly feel like I may be able to make a connection somewhere where we can help bring in other kind of economic opportunities.”
Copley could face who he calls “career politicians” — Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R-W.Va.) — if they decide to run in the Republican primary.
“A lot of people sense that Joe is not going to do very well, so I think that’s one reason why it’s going to be such a crowded Republican primary,” Copley said.
Manchin has served in the U.S. Senate since 2010. He was the Governor of West Virginia before that.
Copley said what makes him different is that he knows what it’s like to be unemployed and have to struggle to make ends meet. He was laid off in Sept. 2015 from Arch Coal after working there for 11 years.
“I think my story resonates with the people in this state because I think most people in this state have lead the same types of things in the last couple of years,” he said.
“You walk a mile in someone else’s shoes — you tend to fight for that person a little harder than what you might have in the past and I think I wear the same shoes as a lot of people.”