CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's campaign said he would skip the Democratic National Convention, it was because "his time is best spent working in West Virginia."
But instead of going to Charlotte, N.C., for the final day of the convention on Thursday, Tomblin was at a five-star resort in Pennsylvania to, among other things, raise money for his campaign.
In the hours before President Barack Obama gave a convention- ending address to the nation Thursday night, the coal industry was to fete Tomblin at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a 2,000-acre luxury retreat in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The out-of-state trip was a mix of official duties and campaigning. Also Thursday, Tomblin was to give the keynote address on natural gas at an energy conference.
The conference was organized by the Nemacolin Energy Institute, an industry-backed nonprofit. State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman was to speak Wednesday morning.
The speech and fundraiser are a bit of counter-programming for the governor. Republican challenger Bill Maloney is trying to tie Tomblin to Obama and argues Tomblin hurts the coal industry. Tomblin will be 410 miles from Obama and accepting campaign money from the coal industry.
Democrats Tomblin, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall all decided not to attend their party's national convention.
In mid-June, they each said they wanted to spend Labor Day week campaigning in or working for West Virginia, not going out of state. But their decisions also were interpreted as attempts to distance themselves from Obama, who is deeply unpopular in West Virginia.
Rahall has publicly said he supports Obama's re-election. Manchin and Tomblin have not. "The governor feels that his time is best spent working in West Virginia to move our state forward instead of attending a four-day political rally in North Carolina," Tomblin campaign spokesman Chris Stadelman said in June.
CONSOL Energy's political action committee and Morgantown coal operator Jim Laurita Jr. hosted the Pennsylvania event. The invitation called for a two-hour event at the resort's Shooting Academy on Thursday afternoon, followed by a twohour reception. His keynote speech was to follow at 7 p.m. Laurita, chairman of the West Virginia Coal Association's board of directors, also contributes to Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Mountain Party gubernatorial candidate Jesse Johnson said that shows the state's Democratic and Republican parties offer voters no real choice.
"I just think it's indicative and exemplary of how both parties - and particularly the governorship - is hamstrung by and tied to the extractive industries in the state of West Virginia," Johnson said. "And it shows how there really is no two-party system in West Virginia when the Democrats are being supported by those who support the Republicans."
Maloney accused Tomblin of having "skipped out on his state responsibilities" so he could go to Pennsylvania.
"When Earl Ray said he needed to stay in West Virginia to attend to state business instead of opposing Obama at the Democratic Convention, he wasn't telling West Virginians the truth," Maloney said through a spokesman.