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Editorial: Nick Rahall for Congress

After 38 years in Congress, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is fighting for his political life for the first time. Right-wing billionaires and conservative industries are flooding Southern West Virginia with expensive smear ads making slanted attacks. They even created a fake “Nick Rahall for Congress” Web site to lure viewers, then tell them that the long-term congressman “has openly sold out West Virginia and joined the War on Coal.”

Leading this onslaught are tycoons like the billionaire Koch brothers, who funnel their wealth to Republican causes across America. Can their money defeat Rahall? We hope not. Coming months will tell.

Rahall has only a token opponent in the May 13 primary. We endorse him to regain the Democratic nomination — and we hope he goes on to retain his House seat in the fall.

Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report said this month that the Third District campaign is “going to be quite ugly.” He listed the showdown as a toss-up. “The congressman is facing a reelection race like he’s never faced before. ... There is a chunk of voters [in the Third District] who are willing to vote Republican in federal races,” he said, and GOP strategists are pulling out all stops to induce them to “finally flip that switch.”

The “destroy Rahall” drive includes costly ads by a Koch front called Americans for Prosperity, which berates the congressman for supporting health insurance for working poor families. “Obamacare is not working,” they rail. Will this tactic succeed? Frankly, we think it’s bizarre to base a political pitch on a desire to revoke medical care for people who need help.

Rahall’s presumed opponent in the fall is state Sen. Evan Jenkins, who was elected as a Democrat — and supported President Obama’s Affordable Care Act while he was a Democrat — but switched to Republican to challenge Rahall, and now denounces the ACA. Oddly, Jenkins continues to hold his state Senate seat, which he won as a Democrat, while running as a Republican for Congress. What a tangle.

Can far-right billionaires drive Democrat Rahall from Congress? We pray not. The big money players trying to defeat Rahall don’t care about the lives and health of West Virginians. Congressman Rahall does.

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