LOGAN, W.Va. (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton drew boos and shouts from the crowd as he made a campaign stop in West Virginia coal country ahead of the state’s May 10 presidential primary.
Supporters of Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican candidate Donald Trump gathered outside a school in Logan in the southern part of the state as Clinton spoke Sunday. A letter written on behalf of Logan officials told U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s staff in an email that Bill and Hillary Clinton “are simply not welcome in our town.”
Hillary Clinton, who planned to campaign in Williamson on Monday, has been criticized for comments that her policies would put coal miners and companies out of business. Clinton said later she was mistaken and that she’s committed to coalfield communities.
“I came here to tell you that I care about what you’re going through,” Bill Clinton told the crowd. “I get it.”
The coal industry has seen thousands of layoffs in the past year. And producers Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Patriot Coal, with many operations in central Appalachia, have filed for bankruptcy protection. West Virginia’s 6.5 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in April was the second highest in the nation only to Alaska.
Bill Clinton also addressed the need to improve access to broadband Internet and efforts to eradicate the nation’s drug epidemic, which he said is prevalent in distressed areas. West Virginia has the nation’s highest rate of drug overdose deaths.
“I don’t think Hillary would come here to make you promises that we can’t keep,” he said. “We’re not leaving West Virginia behind. We’ve got to invest in this place. I know the price you have paid.”
Near the end of his speech, one man standing in the back of the room shouted, “We want work!”
Clinton responded, “We are not going to resolve this today. But we’d be a heck of a lot better off in this country if we have more meetings like this and less screaming and shouting. All I can tell you is if she wins, I will do every single solitary thing I can personally. I will do everything I can. I believe she’s got the best plan going forward.”
The boos and audience interruptions were absent later Sunday when the former president spoke before a cheering audience at the state Capitol.