The Republican nominee for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District told The Star News Network about his August 3 primary win with 37 percent of the vote, how he decided to run for Congress, and his relationship with President Donald J. Trump.
“The numbers in my race show you that you can have all kinds of endorsements, but when you are supported by President Trump, you win,” said Mike Carey, a native of Sabine, Ohio, and a former president and chairman of the Ohio Coal Association.
“President Trump has an 88 percent approval rating in my district amongst Republicans,” he said. “I’d be hard-pressed to say that if you go to a family reunion, any member of the family has an 88 percent approval rate.”
Carey, who was an executive with the St. Clairsville, Ohio based American Consolidated Natural Resources, the legacy company of Murray Energy, said his quest for the congressional seat began in the spring.
In May, the seat opened when Republican Rep. Steven E. Stivers resigned from Congress to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
“Well, when I heard that the former congressman was going to step down for sure, I had to have a very long conversation with my wife and my employer, and when I got the green light from both, it was a long drive from St. Clairsville back to Columbus, where I lived — and I really had to think about it,” Carey said.
“I got back in that night and sat down, I called some of my very dear friends, and I said: ‘We need to get together.’ And we did. And within three hours, all of a sudden, we decided I was going to be a candidate for this race,” said the veteran, who served 10 years as a National Guard ordnance officer.
Carey said he was conscious of what it meant to replace Stiver, an acolyte of former Speaker John A. Boehner (R.-Ohio), so that his win in November will flip the seat from the GOP establishment to the House conservatives.
Stiver presented himself to voters as a conservative, but in practice, he worked as an enforcer for Boehner and the GOP House leadership to kneecap conservatives.
Stiver’s Capitol Hill peak was during the 2018 midterm cycle when he was the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman. In that post, he oversaw the loss of the Republican Party’s largest House majority in 80 years.
Even as he looked at a historic loss, in the days before the 2018 election, Stiver gave interviews to mainstream reporters, where he urged Iowa voters to defeat conservative Republican Rep. Stephen A. King.
Carey said he was determined to start his campaign in a bold move with his family, friends, and allies all lined up.
“It was a process of a few days, but the most important thing was that I didn’t want to come out of the gate and just do a press release,” the coal advocate said.
“I wanted to make sure that I had money in the bank and make sure that I had professional, digital advertising talking about who I was as a person,” he said. “When we announced, and we went to the Board of Elections, we were live within the first – I don’t know – probably within the hour after we filed.”
Trump endorses Carey
Another part of Carey’s electoral calculation was his relationship with Trump: he said, “I think that going into this race, I clearly wanted to define myself as the America First candidate — and this is even before I got the president’s endorsement, and that’s what we did.”
Carey said he first met the president in 2016 at the then-New York City real estate developer’s Manhattan office in Trump Tower through his close friend and Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
“Corey Lewandowski has been a dear friend of mine for 27 years, and I’ve been a strong supporter, raised the president a tremendous amount of money over the years,” he said.
“We went into Trump Tower, and the conversation was just, at that time, Mr. Trump and the three of us,” he said. “There were only four people in the room, and there couldn’t have been a more engaging conversation about coal mining and coal miners and domestic energy policy.”
Carey said he was struck by Trump’s understanding of the coal industry and his specific questions about its future.
“He was right on top of it. I mean, he knew it; he had read some very good articles and was asking questions about clean coal technology and asking questions about the grid,” he said.
“But it was a conversation about the coal miners that he wanted to put back to work, and he did in many cases, and about the radical left and what they’re trying to do to tear down just the remarkable legacy of President Trump,” he said.
“I mean, this is somebody that has built an empire if you will, in terms of his real estate holdings, and energy is a very important part of that, so he was very engaged, we worked with him throughout the administration, we had the opportunity to go in the Oval Office and in the White House multiple times.”
As he put together his 2021 campaign, Carey said he gamed out with Lewandowski the possibility of getting the president’s endorsement.
“When I decided to run, Corey and I talked, and of course, Corey and the president are very close,” he said. “Corey’s like: ‘We’ve got to get a meeting with him.’”
At his sit-down with the president, Carey said it went much better than he expected.
“I went in, and his first question was: ‘Mike, why do you want to do this?’ and I told him, I said: ‘Mr. President, you inspired me to do this because you had a very successful career.’ My career is not nearly as successful as his, but it’s been moderately successful. I’ve been very blessed.”
Carey said he told Trump he was running for Congress because of his hopes and concerns for America’s future, especially after how the 2020 election was handled.
“I said: ‘I’m looking at the country, I’m looking what has happened after this election, and I’m looking what the Democrats are doing to the America that you and I both love, and I can’t stand for it,’” he said.
The 1993 Ohio State University graduate said he told the president he would take on all comers. “Not just the Democrats, I mean, even the RINOs.”
It was at that point of the meeting that Trump said he had made his decision.
“When he said: ‘I’m going to endorse you,’ I literally looked over at Corey, and I was like: ‘Corey, we’ve got to get the hell out of the door now before anything happens.’”
Trump promised him more than just his endorsement, Carey said.
“I literally thought it was going to be a photo op with the president, maybe a 10-minute meeting,” he said.
“After about an hour and 20 minutes, he looked at me, and he goes: ‘Mike, I’m all in. I’m going to do everything I can do to get you over the finish line. I’ll do whatever it takes, tele-rallies, whatever you need, and even come in the district if we have time,’” he said.
Because of the short time window, there was no time to set up a live Trump rally, but Trump kept his word, he said.
In the days before the primary, it was as if Carey carried the future of the Trump project on his shoulders. Then, in the July 27 GOP primary for Texas’ 6th congressional district, Trump’s endorsed candidate Susan Wright, widow of Rep. Ronald J. Wright, lost to state Rep. John K. “Jake” Ellzey Sr., 53 percent to 47 percent.
Trump critics cited Wright’s loss as proof that the president no longer held sway, so with the Ohio-15 primary coming up, the second defeat of a Trump candidate would be the validation they needed.
Stiver, for his part, endorsed state Rep. Jeffrey LaRe to fill his vacant seat and the former congressman and contributed to LaRe’s campaign from his campaign committee.
In the end, Carey beat LaRe and the other nine candidates handily with 18,655 votes out of 50,456 cast. There were 16,130 votes cast in the Democratic primary.
Carey said that in the days after the primary, Trump is still working with him to talk policy and plan for the November election. Then, he faces healthcare industry consultant Allison Russo, the Democratic nominee. “He’s been nothing but supportive. I talked to him about three times in the last three days.”
Carey fears Biden’s economic, energy policies
Carey said that when he is elected to Capitol Hill, he will educate the other lawmakers on the benefits of America’s cheap, domestic energy sources.
“It’s domestic natural resources,” he said. “I mean, it’s domestic coal, it’s domestic oil and gas. And they want us to go and be reliant upon windmills and solar panels that are all produced in China.”
Trump was right to get tough on China, he said.
“He was also right making America energy independent,” he said.
“This administration simply would rather you pay more money at the pump, which we’re doing now, pay more money in your electricity, which we are doing and will continue to do as long as we close down baseload power,” Carey said.
“I just think that this administration has it all wrong,” he said. “What’s the first thing that President Biden does when he gets into office? He axes out the Keystone Pipeline – I mean, it’s unbelievable. Unbelievable.”
For America to ignore its cheap, domestic energy sources in favor of more expensive alternatives, he said, would be as if the country unilaterally disarming itself economically.
“Oh, it’s not only disarming us economically,” he said.
“It’s being dishonest with ratepayers, because what this administration, meaning the Biden administration and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer want to do, is they want to completely eliminate fossil energy from the fuel mix by 2035,” he said.
He said that no one has to look further than what happened when the Texas power grid collapsed, unable to power the state with its renewable and green energy sources.
“When you overly rely on renewable energy and you don’t keep your baseload power plants active, what happens? You lose power,” he said.
“That is a very dangerous place, as a country, to find ourselves. And if they do what they want to do for 2035, what will happen to all of us, particularly the Midwest? It’ll be way worse than what happened in Texas.”
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Neil W. McCabe is a national political correspondent for the Star Newspaper Group based in Washington and a Media Fellow at the Gold Institute for International Strategies. Before joining the Star News Network, he was a White House and Capitol Hill reporter for One America News. His special “Biden Family Corruption” was the highest-rated special in the channel’s history. McCabe was the Capitol Hill correspondent for Breitbart News, where he also wrote up wrote up the 2016 Breitbart-Gravis polls. McCabe’s other positions include a senior reporter at Human Events and a staff reporter at The Pilot, Boston’s Catholic paper. McCabe also was the editor of The Somerville News, The (North Cambridge, Mass.) Alewife and served as an Army combat historian in Iraq. His 2013 e-book “The Unfriendly Skies” examined how the American airline industry went from deregulation in the late 1970s to come full circle to the highly-regulated, highly-taxed industry it is today.
Photo “Mike Carey” by Mike Carey.