CHARLESTON (AP) - Several of West Virginia's top Democrat leaders said Monday they would not attend the Democratic National Convention, furthering their attempts during an election year to distance themselves from a president who is wildly unpopular in the state.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall - who are automatic delegates - will skip the convention, set for Sept. 3-6 in Charlotte, N.C. Each faces a Republican opponent in November.
Tomblin campaign spokesman Chris Stadelman said the governor has "serious problems" with both President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
"The governor feels that his time is best spent working in West Virginia to move our state forward instead of attending a four-day political rally in North Carolina," Stadelman said.
Tomblin is facing a challenge this fall from Republican Bill Maloney, who lost by only about 7,000 votes in a special election last year. Maloney on Monday accused Tomblin of doublespeak, attacking him for not joining 27 governors who sued to stop Obama's health care overhaul from taking effect.
"We have a governor who is so afraid of his party bosses that he refuses to answer the simple question of whether or not another 4-year term for Barack Obama is good for our state. Now he won't even attend his party's convention," Maloney said in a statement.
"I'm not afraid to say it: four more years of Barack Obama would be devastating to West Virginia's families," he continued. "I'm going to do everything I can to defeat him in November."
Tomblin and Manchin have declined to say whether they would support Obama in November. Each refused to say whether he voted for Obama in the May primary.
Tomblin did, however, say he "absolutely did not" vote for a federal prison inmate in Texas who got his name on the state's ballot and collected nearly 41 percent of the total ballots cast, or about 72,4000 votes.
Another 25,000 primary voters skipped the presidential race entirely.
Tomblin said at the time he was troubled by Obama's stance on coal and by Romney's positions on several other issues, so he wouldn't support either candidate.
Obama lost West Virginia to Republican John McCain in 2008 and has rarely visited the state.