By Ron Gregory
WASHINGTON — Third District U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall labeled a report by national media “absolutely false” Sunday afternoon. Speaking by telephone from the nation’s capital, the veteran Democrat congressman who represents much of Southern West Virginia, added, “I’m a fighter; not a quitter.”
Rahall was responding to a report that he considered withdrawing as a candidate for re-election this year but changed his mind after being reassured he would receive more campaign funds from Democratic national leadership. Cable News Network reported the claim Sunday, according to Kyle Balluck of The Hill, an independent website that focuses on Washington, D.C., and national politics. The Hill spoke with Rahall about his re-election campaign in March as well, according to Balluck.
The cable channel’s John King said on “Inside Politics” Sunday that Rahall was “about to retire a couple of weeks ago. And the leadership convinced him not to do that. And they promised him there’d be more money coming in.”
Rahall, 65, who represents West Virginia’s Third District in the southern portion of the state, is in a re-election campaign that pits him against newcomer Richard Ojeda II in the May primary. If successful there, the veteran congressman would face Democrat-turned-Republican state Sen. Evan Jenkins in the general election.
Remaining in the race, Rahall has received a commitment from the Democratic Campaign Committee to add him to their “Frontline” list of members that need the most help to save their seats in November, The Hill reported. But Rahall said that report was untrue, as well.
“I gave absolutely no consideration to withdrawing from this race,” he said. “The Democrat Party has always intended to support me and they and the voters will do just that. I would not give up this seat, which belongs to the people, without a fight.”
King added that Rahall is “one of the guys under attack by outside interest groups, the Koch brothers.” That reference is to Charles G. and David H. Koch, whose “Koch Family Foundations” has been highly critical of President Barack Obama and liberal Democrats. They have financed efforts to defeat many Democrats, ordinarily supporting the Republican and/or libertarian candidates.
Rahall said Sunday he is not affected by support from the Kochs for Jenkins.
“I am not afraid of the Koch brothers and their money,” Rahall said. “The people of West Virginia will show the Koch brothers they cannot buy the United States Congress.”
In March, Rahall told The Hill that he supported former Republican President George W. Bush more than current Democrat Barack Obama. The campaign strategy to defeat Rahall, who overcame significant Republican challenges based on similar campaign issues in previous elections, is to link the incumbent Democrat with Obama. The president is immensely unpopular in West Virginia and came close to losing the 2012 Democrat primary in the Mountain State to a Texas prison inmate.
“There’s no question my critics try to blame Obama-Rahall for everything,” Rahall told The Hill. “I mean, the snow blitz that’s coming tonight is probably Obama-Rahall’s fault. And they won’t have that to do two years from now, so it’s obvious they’re leaving no stone unturned to defeat me this time. Because it’s the last time they’ll have Obama around; it’s that simple.”
Rahall added at the time, “I will support him (Obama) when he’s good for West Virginia and I will oppose him when he’s bad for West Virginia.”
In response to whether Obama has been good for West Virginia overall, Rahall responded, “Probably not.”
According to the congressman during Sunday’s telephone interview, the “only consideration I ever made concerning re-election was that I briefly thought about running for the U.S. Senate.”
Rahall noted that West Virginia’s senior senator, Jay Rockefeller, is retiring after this term.
“West Virginia has too much invested in my leadership position,” the congressman said. “We’ve already lost too much seniority. We need to hold onto mine so I decided to remain in the House, and I’ve never given it (the Senate) another thought.”
Rahall added that “I can sleep well tonight and every night knowing I have always done what’s right for West Virginia. Quitting and giving up are not in my vocabulary.”
Rahall has served in Congress since 1977.