Coal central to pivotal Kentucky Senate race

Eastern Kentucky could play a decisive role in a Senate race seen as important to establishing control of the United States Congress in upcoming mid-term elections.

The coal-producing region, part of the Appalachian coal belt that runs through 13 states in the U.S. northeast, has fallen on hard times, with coal production plummeting to its lowest level in 50 years. One of its counties, Clay County, was named "the hardest place to live in the United States" by the New York Times, due to its high unemployment, low household incomes, and short life expectancies.

Workers blame the coal downturn on federal regulators in Washington, and see the upcoming elections in November as a chance to save coal communities from extinction. Politicians and their backers, meanwhile, are increasingly interested in the outcome and are willing to pour millions into the campaign.

As reported by Yahoo News on Friday:

Amid public dissatisfaction with President Obama and the direction of the country, the 2014 midterm elections have emerged as a high-stakes battle for control of the U.S. Congress. And while every inch of the electoral map remains precious, no campaign has garnered more attention than the showdown in the Bluegrass State. A victory for Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell is essential to the GOP's plans to take over Congress and install the 72-year-old lawmaker as Senate majority leader. But the race also offers Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a 35-year-old Democrat, the opportunity to knock off the five-term incumbent and leading obstacle to Obama's agenda. Interest in the election has stretched far beyond coal country; individuals and outside groups are reportedly on track to pour more than $100 million into the campaign, which would make it the most expensive Senate race in American history.

Dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration and the Democrats that control the U.S. Senate is also rampant in neighbouring West Virginia, according to Environmental and Energy Publishing. 

An article also posted on Friday notes that the GOP (Republicans) are close to taking the West Virginia House of Delegates for the first time in 83 years.

"There's nothing about that [national Democratic] agenda that sits well with the people of West Virginia," E&E quotes Evan Jenkins, a Republican state senator campaigning to unseat 19-term Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, as saying. "It's time for a change."