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Kentucky has a good primary campaign to select the candidates who will replace Jim Bunning in the U.S. Senate. A good part of that campaign is being played out in rural Kentucky — especially in coal-rich Eastern Kentucky. The Democrats in the race (Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and Attorney General Jack Conway) fought over who loved coal best last year. More recently, the Republicans (Trey Grayson and Rand Paul) have been accusing each other of supporting nukes over coal.

The Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper has a good editorial pointing out that all four are missing the point. Coal is not a big job producer in the state, and the number of coal jobs is decreasing. “The state Office of Employment and Training reports that in 2009, Kentucky had 17,400 jobs in coal mining,” the editorial says. “Contrast that with 216,200 in health care and social assistance, 168,800 in leisure and hospitality or 39,700 in the federal government.” Even in Harlan County, the state’s most famous coal-mining county, there are more jobs in state and local government than in the mines.

“Counting on coal to create jobs or move the economy is a dead end,” the Herald-Leader says. “Kentuckians should demand reality-based ideas and leadership from those who seek to speak for them in the U.S. Senate. We haven’t seen it yet.”

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