Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wears a canary pin on his lapel as a gesture of support for Ohio coal miners.
When his political opponents accused him of siding with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in an attempt to bankrupt coal companies, Brown denied it.
“There is no war on coal, period.” he said in a 2012 Senate debate.
Brown has since gone on to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from the environmental lobby, the most intense enemy of coal.
In the 2018 election cycle alone, he has raised $340,465 from groups like the Sierra Club, NextGen Climate Action and Global Green USA, according to Open Secrets. That’s more than any other senator with the exception of Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).
In November 2015 Brown voted against disapproving President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the EPA’s Carbon Emissions Rule for new power plants, both of which put upward pressure on utility rates.
Man of the people or beholden to Washington lobbyists?
Fast forward to 2018, and Brown’s opponent for the U.S. Senate, Congressman Jim Renacci, admits that breaking through the facade of Brown’s aura as a “man of the people” has been challenging.
Brown runs daily negative TV ads against Renacci and still has a campaign war chest flush with cash.
Yet, Renacci says he is the candidate who has an actual connection with coal miners, steelworkers, and every other man or woman who brings a lunch bucket to the workplace.
On Monday Renacci toured the American Energy Corp.’s Century Mine in Beallsville, Ohio, where he addressed a meeting-hall full of miners.
Renacci told them he understands the importance coal plays in Ohio’s economy. That’s because his grandfather was a coal miner and his father was a railroad worker.
During his speech before the coal miners, Renacci mentioned both his father and his grandfather.
“I wish he were still alive today, to see what I’m doing. And my father as well, because they know I’m not doing this because I want the position,” he said. “My dad and grandfather would tell you I’m doing this because I want to make a difference.”
$27 million in special-interest backing
On the Bob Franz radio show recently, Renacci voiced his frustration of going up against the Brown political machine, which has raised a staggering $27 million for his reelection to a third term in the U.S. Senate.
Renacci, an accountant and businessman, said Brown is spending “$2 million a week” on TV ads painting himself as a man of “blue collar background” while defining Renacci as in the pocket of big business.
Renacci has been able to punch back in two debates held over the last two weeks, but whether that will be enough to pull and upset remains to be seen.
“People say to me, why don’t you get up on TV? But where we are competing every day is on the ground and on social media,” he said. “Would it be nice to spend $2 million a week on TV? Absolutely. But the problem is, I’m at a disadvantage when you’re running against an incumbent who’s been around for 44 years, in the House and Senate for 25 years, and just announced he’s raised $27 million from special-interest groups.”
‘The son of a doctor who went to Yale’
Frantz noted that many of Brown’s TV ads portray Brown as rumpled, disheveled and “down in the trenches” with Ohio workers. A man of the people.
That’s what Renacci finds most frustrating.
“When Sherrod Brown talks about his blue-collar background and when he wears that canary on his lapel and says that’s for coal miners, I get so disgusted because my grandfather was a coal miner, his grandfather wasn’t,” Renacci said. “When he talks about the steelworkers, my uncles were steelworkers, when he talks about the union workers my dad was a union worker, my dad was a railroad worker. This is the frustration I have because I actually came from that blue-collar background. Sherrod Brown was the son of a doctor who went to Yale.”
Despite his frustrations, Renacci ended the interview with Frantz by expressing his hope that a “red wave” will propel him over the top, sparked by a overwhelming desire from Ohioans to keep the economic momentum of the last two years going.
Renacci said the Trump-led Republican agenda has been helping Ohio coal miners, steelworkers and all workers.
“Trump has helped our coal miners in Ohio, unemployment is down, wages are up, the tax cuts are working, we have two conservative justices confirmed, ISIS is on the run,” Renacci said. “Promises made, prom kept. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve supported him since day one, and continue to support him.”
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star. Photo “Sherrod Brown” by sherrodbrown.com.