Senator Bernie Sanders handily defeated Hillary Clinton in West Virginia’s Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday night, 51 percent to 36 percent. But what happened to the other 13 percent of the vote?
Most of it went to Paul Farrell Jr., a little-known local lawyer who did no fund-raising and spent no money campaigning, but who paid $2,500 to have his name on the ballot to protest how Democrats have treated the coal industry. He captured 9 percent of the vote statewide, and in Mingo County, the heart of West Virginia’s coal country, he even won 113 more votes than Mrs. Clinton.
“I was hoping that by placing my name on the ballot and getting enough votes, someone was going to see that the numbers don’t add up,” Mr. Farrell said in an interview. “There are tens of thousands of West Virginians that are frustrated that they are not being heard and are looking for someone to stand up and fight for us.”
Mr. Farrell, 43, said he got the idea after church one Sunday when he was complaining to his brothers about how President Obama, Mrs. Clinton, and other national Democrats were complicit in the war on coal. A longtime Democrat, he remained reluctant to back Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee who has promised to put coal miners back to work.
“Hillary bragged on the campaign trail that she was going to put coal miners and coal companies out of business and Bernie Sanders actually said ‘to hell with the fossil fuel industry,’” Mr. Farrell said. “I think it’s asinine for West Virginia Democrats to vote for national candidates whose energy policy is irreconcilable with our interests.”
West Virginia has a history of voting for “none of the above” candidates in primary contests. In 2012 Keith Judd, a felon who filed from a Texas prison to be on the Democratic primary ballot, won 41 percent of the vote against President Obama. Mr. Judd won just 2 percent of the vote in the state on Tuesday, equal to Martin O’Malley’s total.
Mr. Farrell, who narrowly missed the threshold that would have awarded him delegates to the convention, said that he understood the appeal of Mr. Trump in his state but that he wanted to remain loyal to the Democratic Party. And if Mrs. Clinton prevails as the nominee, he said he hoped that she remembers the message coming from the coal industry’s heartland.
“I’m hoping that she sees that I beat her in Mingo County and that she decides not to just make campaign promises to rebuild West Virginia’s infrastructure,” Mr. Farrell said. “I hope that she places it in the party platform and makes it a priority.”
This article was originally published in the New York Times.