CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will campaign for West Virginia's U.S. Senate and House hopefuls next week.
The former Massachusetts governor will attend an Aug. 19 Charleston fundraiser and Beckley rally for Shelley Moore Capito, Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins. The three races are key as Republicans look to tip traditionally Democratic West Virginia further right.
Capito's campaign announced the events Monday in a news release.
Capito, a seventh-term congresswoman, faces Democratic West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in a high-profile Senate race. Capito is favored as Republicans try to overturn a thin Democratic Senate majority.
Jenkins is challenging 19-term U.S. Rep. Congressman Nick Rahall in the 3rd Congressional District. Mooney and Democrat Nick Casey are seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat Capito will vacate.
In the Capito news release, Romney called the three Republicans "pro-coal advocates" who oppose President Barack Obama. In 2012, Romney beat Obama in all of West Virginia's 55 counties.
"These candidates support the policies that will put West Virginia on a path toward economic prosperity, job-growth and freedom from Obama's overreaching policies that threaten West Virginia's way of life," Romney said.
Tennant, Rahall and Casey have distanced themselves from the president. They say his proposal to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants will hurt West Virginia's iconic fossil fuel industry.
As Massachusetts governor, Romney also supported limiting airborne power plant pollution. In 2005, Romney initially backed a regional cap-and-trade pact for power plant emissions, but later refused to sign the pact.
Gina McCarthy, now Obama's top official at the Environmental Protection Agency, once worked for his administration.
On the presidential campaign trail, Romney championed the coal industry and criticized Obama's energy plans.
The Tennant campaign attacked Romney for a 2003 press conference as governor, in which he said a Massachusetts coal power plant -- deemed of the state's five worst for pollution -- "kills people." He wanted the Salem plant to comply with new state emissions rules without an extended deadline.
"The fact that Congresswoman Capito would align herself with someone who believes coal 'kills people' just to make a quick buck shows how quickly she will turn her back on West Virginia coal miners in favor of Wall Street dollars," Tennant spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue said.
Capito campaign spokeswoman Amy Graham said Tennant was defending Obama by calling Romney "coal's public enemy #1."
Romney's former vice presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan, already lent Capito support during a Charleston event last month.
On the same day, progressive star Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., headlined an event for Tennant in Shepherdstown.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota crisscrossed West Virginia for Tennant in April. The two energy state Democrats blasted Obama's emissions rules.
It's not the first time Romney helped Capito and tried to get Rahall out of office. Romney showed up in Charleston in 2006 to support Capito and former GOP Cabell County Sheriff Kim Wolfe, who unsuccessfully challenged Rahall.