BEALLSVILLE, Ohio - West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas crossed state lines last week to hear Mitt Romney speak about coal. He liked what he heard.
"In West Virginia, the coal issue is so important," Lucas said during the Romney campaign event at American Energy Corp.'s Century Mine in Beallsville, where more than 2,000 coal miners and their families turned out. "People are so tuned in to the coal issue, and that's going to bring them out. It's going to have impact down the ticket."
Lucas said he believes coal's future and what many refer to as the "war on coal" is going to lead to a high turnout for the Nov. 6 general election.
"There is tremendous interest in the election this year, and it is being driven by the presidential ticket," he said.
President Barack Obama leads the Democrat ticket, and is very unpopular in West Virginia. Obama lost more than 40 percent of the primary vote to Keith Judd, a convicted felon who is currently incarcerated in a Texas prison.
A strong statewide GOP ticket in West Virginia also will motivate the Republican base to come out and vote, Lucas said. Republican Bill Maloney is leading the statewide ticket as he challenges Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin for the governor's post.
Maloney, still a newcomer to the political arena, lost to Tomblin, who has been in public office for nearly 40 years, by about 7,800 votes during last year's special gubernatorial election.
Lucas doesn't agree with so-called political experts who predict Democrat voters in West Virginia will stay away from the polls this year.
"Democrats have been crossing over in unexpected numbers in the state," he said. "There may be some who stay home, but a high number of Democrats will be coming out and voting Republican."
Lucas, 30, was selected the GOP chairman by the party's state executive committee in May. He is an Huntington attorney and business consultant who previously worked as a staff member for U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
Lucas said he is excited about West Virginia's statewide Republican slate for 2012, which he calls the "Dream Team." That slate includes U.S. Senate candidate John Raese; congressional candidates Capito, David B. McKinley and Rick Snuffer; gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney; Larry Faircloth, candidate for auditor; Mike Hall, candidate for treasurer; Kent Leonhardt, candidate for commissioner of agriculture; Patrick Morrisey, candidate for attorney general; and state Supreme Court candidates Allen Loughry and John Yoder.
"This election is like none I've seen in my lifetime," Lucas commented. "It's a fun time to be in our party."
The party will focus this fall on developing its grass roots effort and going door to door, he said.
Lucas said the state GOP will open eight "victory centers" throughout the state staffed with field representatives. One of the victory centers will be located in Wheeling, he noted, though the location and opening date have yet to be set.
"I am predicting unprecedented Republican success," Lucas commented. "We all have known that on one November evening, we would change the state for the better and Republicans would be elected to state office. I believe Nov. 6 will be that night."