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Hillary Clinton speaks during an event, which was part of her "Breaking Down Barriers" tour, at Jackie O's Production Brewery and Taproom on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. 

Hillary Clinton talks coal industry, family during Athens tour stop

The former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate said she would have Jackie O's beer at the White House.

Standing before a crowd of 300 attendees in Jackie O’s Taproom and Brewery on Tuesday, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that if she made it back to the White House, Jackie O’s beer would be served.

She said the type of beer would be up to Jackie O’s owner and founder Art Oestrike, though.

As part of a campaign tour called “Breaking Down Barriers,” targeted toward the revitalization of Appalachia, the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential election made stops in West Virginia and Kentucky on Monday, prior to making her way to Ohio on Tuesday.

“It shouldn’t have to be said, but I will say it — Appalachia is a vital part of the United States,” Clinton said.

Clinton visited Court Street Diner before arriving at the brewery to be introduced by Oestrike and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, who said Clinton was the most qualified for the presidency and has “great enthusiasm without cynicism.”

Clinton’s speech framed her revitalization plan for Appalachia, which in part focuses on helping coal and steel workers.

“First, we’ve got to honor our obligation to miners past and present and stand with the steel workers who are fighting for their livelihoods right now.” Clinton said. “Miners, power plant workers and railroad employees deserve the benefits they’ve earned and the respect of all Americans.”

Clinton also said laws protecting workers’ health and safety should be strengthened and executives who neglect safety measures should be held accountable, referring to the death of 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia in 2010. Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship received a one-year prison sentence as a result, which Clinton called “unacceptable.”

She voiced support for the Miners Protection Act and the Mine Safety Protection Act.

“At a time when our energy sector is changing rapidly, we need to invest in coal communities.” Clinton said. “We need to figure out how to bring new jobs and industries to them, and we need to stand up to the coal company executives trying to shirk their responsibilities to their workers and retirees.”  

Coal workers from various companies protested before Clinton’s arrival to the venue.

Fred Brown, a GOP spokesman who was present outside the event, said Clinton would continue the Obama administration’s “anti-coal policies.”

“Hillary Clinton and Ted Strickland are complicit in this war on coal,” Brown said.

Liz Margolis, Strickland for Senate campaign spokeswoman, said Strickland is a “champion for Ohio’s working people” and will stand up for them in the U.S. Senate.

“Ted Strickland grew up in Appalachia, he understands this community and he’s fought for coal miners at every turn — their pensions, their healthcare and to protect the safety of the mines they work in,” Margolis said in an email.

Clinton also faced resistance while campaigning in West Virginia on Monday, where coal workers took issue with a remark she made during CNN’s Democratic Town Hall in March. She was quoted as saying, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Clinton said she misspoke at the town hall, adding that coal produces “far less of our electricity than it once did,” while the energy market has been changing rapidly.

“Even China is starting to burn less coal,” Clinton said. “That’s good for the planet, but it has hurt American coal exports from this region. And no matter what some politicians tell you, these trends are here to stay.”

Clinton also emphasized investing in the creation of more well-paid jobs in Appalachia.

“We know this region is rich in assets far beyond coal. We also know that economic development plans designed in Washington without local input will not deliver results for you and your families,” she said.

 Clinton said she wants to support “locally driven priorities,” and her plan would create a new Coal Communities Challenge Fund to support investment “by Appalachians, for Appalachians.”

She also addressed education, said entrepreneurs could defer student loans for three years to provide them the opportunity to establish their businesses and supported making free community college available.

Another part her plan supports investing in families through policies such as paid family leave and affordable healthcare, she said.

“We make it just about as hard to balance family and work as we can in this country,” Clinton said.

Though presidential campaign stops have recently been known for rowdy crowds and protests, the event Tuesday was relatively tame. Protestors were present during the event, holding signs that read sayings like, “I’m voting for Bernie because I’m a feminist”, “Clinton for sale” and “We don’t need your corporate feminism”.

Peter Schmidt, resident of Athens, held a sign that read “I’d rather be home reading your Goldman Sachs transcripts,” referring to a series of $675,000 paid speeches Clinton gave to the company, from which no transcripts have been released.

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Schmidt noted that as a supporter of Bernie Sanders — the Vermont senator who is running on the Democratic ticket as well — protesting has been peaceful at the event, crediting the fact that “we’re all Democrats here”. He said he thought most of the speech he heard, as he was standing outside, was pandering, and said Sanders’ campaign stops usually allow more people in the venue than Clinton’s.

Tuesday’s capacity was capped at 306, according to event staffers, but some people stood outside the venue to listen to Clinton speak.

Damon Krane, an Ohio University alumnus, said Clinton was running on a foreign policy record that should have ended her career and added it was “one of the sickest ironies of the situation.”

“I think people think Clinton will bring them back to the '90s, but she’ll really bring them back to the 2000s,” Krane said, citing her position on regime change in Libya, particularly in the context of the aftermath of U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Lois Whealey, a Clinton supporter, held a sign from her 2008 presidential campaign that she’d saved. Whealey, an Athens resident, said she cast her first vote in 1956.

“My husband is for Bernie.” Whealey said. “I like what Bernie says, but I think Hillary is far and away the most qualified candidate.”

Whealey, whose mother was a member of the Nevada legislature and a “New Dealer for the New Deal,” described herself as a lifelong, liberal Democrat who regularly read Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day” column when she was younger.

“I don’t usually fangirl but I’m a little bit of a Hillary fangirl, so I had to come out even though my legs are broken now. … I held this little girl (during the speech), isn’t that right?” Melissa Brobeck, an Athens resident, said while looking down at her 6-year-old daughter, Scarlett.

Scarlett said she thought Clinton’s speech was “good” and when asked if she would vote for her if she could, replied “yeah.”

Rhonda and Suzanne Dietrich voiced similar sentiments about Clinton. The mother-daughter duo were at the head of the line at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“I took away exactly what I thought I would from (this event),” Rhonda said. “Hillary is my candidate. She did not sway me from that decision. If anything, she solidified it more that she is the candidate for this job.’’

After declaring admiration for Jackie O’s beer and promising to making a better world for her granddaughter, Charlotte, Clinton said her statements were more than just talk.

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“You’ve had a lot of politicians make a lot of promises to you over the years that they couldn’t keep,” Clinton said. “I’m not going to do that. What I can promise is this: If I have the honor of serving as your president, I will fight for you and your families every day, whether you vote for me or not.”

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