Winning Back Coal Country – by Luke Sharrett

Winning Back Coal Country

Jay Swiney, 43, Mayor of Appalachia, Va., stands for a portrait behind the Appalachia Town Hall in Southwest Virginia’s coal country after working the night shift in a local coal mine on Friday, October 26, 2012. Reduced productivity from local coal mines has meant fewer tax revenues for the county. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

DC-based photographer Luke Sharrett shares photos of Virginia’s coal country prior to the elections.

During the 2008 Presidential election, Southwest Virginia’s blue collar coal mining counties voted for Democrat Barack Obama. This unlikely geopolitical swing in 2008 ensured that then Senator Obama would receive Virginia’s hotly contested battleground electoral votes. Four years later, Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign looked to coal country to deliver The Old Dominion back into Republican hands. With federal environmental regulations and changing markets hurting local economies in Virginia’s coal country, the Romney camp and other Republican groups focused much of their ground game in Southwest Virginia. While Romney won back coal country from Obama, it ultimately was not enough to win Virginia on November 6.

See more photos on Luke’s blog.

Winning Back Coal Country

A pro-coal anti-Obama bumper sticker is seen on a jeep in the parking lot of Appalachia Town Hall in Southwest Virginia’s coal country. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

Winning Back Coal Country

Campaign literature and bumper stickers cover a table at the Romney Campaign Victory Office in Abingdon, Va. in Southwest Virginia 12 days before election day on Friday, October 26, 2012. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

Winning Back Coal Country

Residents of Appalachia, Va. cross railroad tracks after letting a Norfolk Southern coal train pass by near the old city hall building in Appalachia, Va. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

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