Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 20, 2010

Boucher stops in Bluefield during annual press tour

BLUEFIELD — For the past several years, U.S. Rep. Frederick C. “Rick” Boucher, D-Va., has made the rounds to the newspapers of his 9th Congressional district visiting with reporters and discussing the things he accomplished in the previous year, and looking ahead to the things he hoped to accomplish in the year ahead.

Up until two years ago, Boucher, 63, of Abingdon, Va., has enjoyed a rather comfortable lock on re-election to the seat he has held in the House of Representatives since 1982. That’s not to say that he has ever taken his office for granted. The late C. Jefferson Stafford, a Republican from Pearisburg, Va., mounted a real challenge against Boucher in the mid-1980s, but with a strong Democratic base in the so-called, “Fighting Ninth” district, Boucher has dispatched all challengers — most times hauling in 70 percent or more of the vote.

But things changed two years ago. The traditionally receptive coalfield audiences that had welcomed Boucher for more than a quarter of a century, snarled a bit when he embraced the candidacy of (now) President Barack Obama. The chorus of snarlers got louder when Boucher voiced his support and voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act on June 26, 2009. The traditional Congressional coalfield coalition voted against the bill, but Boucher voted yea. After all, he crafted portions of the bill that would give coal-fired utilities time to get into compliance with tougher clean air standards as well as time for new technologies to be perfected like carbon sequestration.

The words and the rationale have always been there, but critics of Boucher’s relationship with the Obama administration have exploited the breach in Boucher’s long-standing familiarity with the people of his district. It doesn’t matter that Boucher broke the lock-step perception and voted against the national health care bill.

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