- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Glen B. Gainer III is no slouch. He worked for the State Treasurer’s office and acted as budget director of the state Department of Energy before beginning a two-decade run as West Virginia’s 19th state auditor - a job he holds to this day.

Now he’s running for Congress in West Virginia’s 1st district against Republican incumbent David McKinley. Sites like Real Clear Politics are already calling the race a “Safe GOP” victory. Meanwhile, the people behind Gainer’s own website seem to have gone quiet; his last public message to readers was a Sept. 1 “Labor Day Message From Glen.” Not a peep since then.

Some political insiders blame Gainer’s campaign while others blame circumstance.

“Glen Gainer is not just some guy the Democrats just threw out there as a sacrificial lamb,” says Gregory P. Noone, an assistant professor of political science at Fairmont State University. “This is really is a repudiation of Obama more than anything else.”

Republicans all over the country are using that theme. In Georgia, an ad for Republican Senate Candidate David Perdue says President Obama “wants her in the Senate,” referring to his opponent, Democrat Michelle Nunn. In the Arkansas senate race, television ads for Republican candidate Tom Cotton hammer less on his opponent Mark Pryor, and more on Obama’s health care program, the Affordable Care Act, as well as the president’s decisions in the Middle East.

“This is the year of antipathy toward Obama,” says Dr. John C. Kilwein, associate professor of political science and law at West Virginia University.

But the narrative driving antipathy in West Virginia is mostly untrue, Kilwein says.

“There is no war on coal,” he says. “The real threat to coal is not President Obama but the booming natural gas industry and the very real pollution concerns about coal.”

And for all the concern over losing coal jobs in West Virginia, the industry has an established recent history of ups and down. According to numbers provided by the Federation of Tax Administrators, the number of coal-related jobs in West Virginia decreased more than 13 percent between 2011 and 2013. But between 2005 and 2013, the number of coal related jobs increased by almost 13 percent. The number of natural gas-related jobs in West Virginia increased by nearly 77 percent between 2005 and 2013, but the number of coal related jobs in the state was nearly double the number of natural gas related jobs in 2013.

And from a policy standpoint, both McKinley and Gainer agree that coal and natural gas need representation from West Virginians in Congress.

“There’s no difference between Gainer and McKinley on that note,” Noone says. “Their positions with regard to energy policy are all pretty much exactly the same.”

In July, as campaign season was beginning to heat up, McKinley’s campaign had raised $1.5 million for the race while Gainer lagged behind at $187,000. The most recent campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show the same story: David McKinley’s campaign has more than $1.1 million cash on hand. Gainer’s campaign has $189,000.

Gainer isn’t blind to the challenges.

“We knew from the beginning that we were going to be outspent,” Gainer said. “We’re aggressively trying to get our supporters to the polls, but it looks like turnout is going to be low.”

Gainer says an additional problem has been that he’s trying to do his day job while campaigning; he remains state auditor and is expected to carry out those duties from the campaign trail.

“That’s been one of the bigger challenges,” Gainer says. “It takes up a considerable amount of my time. Having a day job has created some challenges.”

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