Nick Rahall

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Nick Rahall
Nick Rahall Official.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 3rd district
Assumed office
January 3, 1993
Preceded by Bob Wise
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 4th district
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Ken Hechler
Succeeded by District Eliminated
Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Richard Pombo
Succeeded by Doc Hastings
Personal details
Born (1949-05-20) May 20, 1949 (age 65)
Beckley, West Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Melinda Rahall
Residence Beckley, West Virginia, U.S.
Alma mater Duke University
George Washington University
Occupation Broadcast executive
Religion Presbyterian

Nick Joe Rahall II (born May 20, 1949) is an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who has served as the U.S. Representative for West Virginia's 3rd congressional district since 1977. Rahall is currently the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. His district includes much of the southern portion of the state, including Huntington, Bluefield and Beckley. Rahall is running for re-election to Congress in 2014 and is considered one of the most "endangered" House Democrats.[1]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Rahall was born in Beckley, West Virginia. He a Presbyterian of Lebanese descent whose father was a businessman, with investments that included radio stations in West Virginia.[citation needed] Rahall graduated in 1971 from Duke University and attended graduate school at the George Washington University. He then went to work as staff assistant for the late U.S. Senator Robert Byrd who served as his mentor. [2] [3]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


Rahall during his first term in Congress

Rahall was elected to Congress in 1976 in the 4th district, succeeding Ken Hechler who ran for governor. Rahall won the district primary with a plurality of 38%.[4] Hechler lost the primary for governor, and attempted a write-in campaign for the congressional seat. Rahall won the general election with 46% of the vote, while Hechler got 37%.[5] In 1978, Hechler challenged Rahall in the Democratic primary, and Rahall won with 56% of the vote.[6] He has been re-elected 17 times.[7] Hechler later became the West Virginia Secretary of State, and ran against Rahall in the primary in 1990. Rahall defeated him, receiving 57% of the vote.[8]

In 1990, he defeated Republican insurance agent Marianne Brewster[9] with just 52%, the second lowest winning percentage of his career.[10] The district was redrawn after the 1990 census, becoming the 3rd district, due to a loss in the state's population.


In 2010, he defeated Republican State Supreme Court Justice Spike Maynard with 56% of the vote.[11]


In the 2012 election, Rahall defeated Republican Rick Snuffer with 53.5% of the vote.[12]


In 2014, Rahall faced a primary challenge from fellow Democrat Richard Ojeda. Rahall won the primary with 66.4% of the vote. He will face Republican Evan Jenkins in the general election.[1]

Committee assignments[edit]

Political issues[edit]


Rahall has expressed concern about America's relationship with Israel. He said, "Israel can’t continue to occupy, humiliate and destroy the dreams and spirits of the Palestinian people and continue to call itself a democratic state."[13]

Rahall, along with other Lebanese-American lawmakers, expressed concern with a bipartisan resolution supporting Israel in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict without adding language urging restraint against civilian targets. He helped draft a resolution that urged "all parties to protect innocent life and civilian infrastructure."[14]

Rahall is the most senior of five Arab American lawmakers. Rahall was the only member of the House to oppose the 1993 resolution for an end to the Arab boycott of Israel. He also pressed the State Department to end a ban on travel to Lebanon; the ban was lifted in 1997.[15]


Rahall opposes legislation designed to end Mountaintop Removal Mining, a process often used in West Virginia,[16] and has introduced legislation to improve mine safety.[17]

Rahall's policies involving mountaintop removal mining have been criticized, with the link between mountaintop removal mining and flooding as well as the billions of pounds of explosives used since 2004 being used as examples.[18]

Environmental issues[edit]

Rahall believes that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are causing global warming, saying to the Register-Herald that denial of climate change is "to just put your head in the sand." [19]

Rahall has called the Environmental Protection Agency “callous”, attacked greenhouse gas rule as “disastrous” and filed legislation to block the president’s climate agenda, but in the summer of 2013 he attended a ceremony to rename the EPA headquarters and has praised EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.[2] Rahall, alongside three other Democrats, supported a GOP bill that would limit EPA authority on CO2 emissions, the Energy Tax Prevention Act. He commented on this, saying: “I am dead set against the E.P.A.’s plowing ahead on its own with new regulations to limit greenhouse gases.”[20] He also voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

In 2007, Rahall introduced the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which banned incandescent light bulbs. Despite introducing the legislation, Rahall voted against the bill on final passage. As result of the legislation, as of Jan 1st, 2014 incandescent light bulbs between 40 watts and 150 watts are illegal to manufacture or import.

In 2013, Rahall voted for the Progressive Caucus's budget, which included provisions for a carbon tax. The budget failed to pass.[21][22]

Troubled Asset Relief Program[edit]

On October 3, 2008 Rahall voted in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.[23]

Health care[edit]

In March 2010, Rahall voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[24][25] In May 2013, Rahall voted against a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[26]

Foreign policy[edit]

Rahall had traveled to Baghdad just before the Iraq War with the intention of convincing Iraqi leaders to allow the U.N. to inspect their weapons and have access to every site. He said that Tareq Aziz had accepted all of Bush's demands, and that "Bush said the war was not inevitable, but we now know that wasn’t true. Iraqis did allow for complete access but Bush’s mind was already made up. Iraqis were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t....We were falsely led into this war.”[13]

In 2004, it was reported that Rahall feared that Syria would be attacked by Bush before the November elections. He said that “They’re using the same rhetoric against the Syrians they used against Iraqis....We now have the Syrian Accountability Act. All this despite the State Department’s admission that Syria helped us capture key al-Qaeda operatives and helped save American lives.” As for Saudi Arabia, Rahall said that the U.S. “wouldn’t dare” attack that country: “The Kingdom has been a key ally for decades.”[13]

LGBT issues[edit]

He voted for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as hate crimes in April 2009. He was one of 15 Democrats who voted against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in December 2010.[27]


In 2011, he co-sponsored HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.[28] The bill had an exception for "forcible rape," which opponents criticized as potentially excluding drug-facilitated rape, date rape, and other forms of rape.[29] The bill also allowed an exception for minors who are victims of incest.[28]

Endorsement of Barack Obama[edit]

In 2008 and 2012, Rahall endorsed Barack Obama, saying Obama understands the needs and aspirations of West Virginians.[30]

Explaining his position, Rahall cited Senator Byrd, who said "I work for no President. I work with Presidents." [31]In an interview with Keith Olbermann, Rahall said that Obama had the courage and conviction to win the presidency, and that the then-senator was a true agent for change.[32]

Family ties to lobbyists[edit]

In 2004, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about Rahall and his sister, lobbyist Tanya Rahall. They reported that she made $15,000 per month as a lobbyist for Qatar and that "the person she frequently lobbies is...her older brother and one of Qatar's biggest champions in Washington.” Rahall said “our paths cross professionally, but not across any lines appropriately established by law or House rules.”[15]

Electoral history[edit]

West Virginia's 4th congressional district: Results 1976–1990[33]
Year Democrat Votes  % Republican Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  %
1976 Nick Rahall 73,626 46% F. S. Goodman 28,825 18% Ken Hechler Democratic (write-in) 59,067 37%
1978 Nick Rahall 70,035 100% No candidate
1980 Nick Rahall 117,595 77% Winton Covey 36,020 23%
1982 Nick Rahall 91,184 81% Homer Harris 22,054 19%
1984 Nick Rahall 98,919 67% Jess Shumate 49,474 33%
1986 Nick Rahall 58,217 71% Martin Miller 23,490 29%
1988 Nick Rahall 78,812 61% Marianne Brewster 49,753 39%
1990 Nick Rahall 39,948 52% David Morrill 36,946 48%
West Virginia's 3rd congressional district: Results 1992–2012[33][34][35]
Year Democrat Votes  % Republican Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  %
1992 Nick Rahall 122,279 66% Ben Waldman 64,012 34%
1994 Nick Rahall 74,967 64% Ben Waldman 42,382 36%
1996 Nick Rahall 145,550 100% No candidate
1998 Nick Rahall 78,814 87% No candidate Joe Whelan Libertarian 12,196 13%
2000 Nick Rahall 146,807 91% No candidate Jeff Robinson Libertarian 13,979 9%
2002 Nick Rahall 87,783 70% Paul Chapman 37,229 30%
2004 Nick Rahall 142,682 65% Rick Snuffer 76,170 35%
2006 Nick Rahall 92,413 69% Kim Wolfe 40,820 31%
2008 Nick Rahall 133,522 67% Marty Gearheart 66,005 33%
2010 Nick Rahall 83,636 56% Spike Maynard 65,611 44%
2012 Nick Rahall 108,199 54% Rick Snuffer 92,238 46%

Personal life[edit]

Rahall and his wife, Melinda, have three children and three grandchildren.[36]

In February 2005, Rahall used congressional stationery to write a letter to a Fairfax County judge asking for leniency for his son, Nick Rahall III, who was facing felony robbery charges. Rahall III has a long record of criminal arrests and drug charges that began with his 1998 drug arrest. Another defendant in the same case was given a sentence of 11 months in prison. It also noted that according to the house ethics manual, “Official stationery...may be used only for official purposes." Rahall said that he should not have used congressional stationery for letter but said it was not the same type that he uses for official or committee business. Rahall added he may have drawn the wrong paper "[i]n the emotions" and that he would reimburse the Treasury for the cost.[37][38] The House Ethics Committee did not launch an inquiry into the incident.[39]

In 2008, Rahall appeared on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives which featured Hillbilly Hot Dogs of Lesage, West Virginia. Rahall introduced the hot dog that's named after him on the menu, Rahall's Red Hot Weenie.[40]

In July 2009, Rahall jumped out of a plane to show his support for the coal industry. The event was intended to show the importance of the coal industry to both West Virginia and the United States as a whole. The act confused some, who questioned the reasoning behind the jump. It was noted that Rahall is involved with coal lobbyists and also receives contributions from the airline industry.[41][42]


  1. ^ a b "Mooney wins crowded GOP House primary; Capito, Tennant to face off in W.Va. Senate race". Fox News. 2014-05-13. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Martinson, Erica. "Coal fires up West Virginia House race". Politico. 
  3. ^ Huber, Tim. "Rahall, Maynard spar in debate". Herald Dispatch. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Final election results: Pennsylvania through Wyoming (including U.S. territories)". USA TODAY. 1990-11-08. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Workman, Jim (2010-11-03). "Rahall is elected to 18th straight term in Congress". The Register-Herald (Beckley, WV). Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  12. ^ "West Virginia Congressional District 3 election results". Decision 2012. NBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c Hanley, Delinda. "Congressman Nick Rahall Assesses Impact Of Iraq and Israel on U.S. Elections". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Weisman, Jonathan (2006-07-26). "Congress Cautioned On Support of Israel". Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  15. ^ a b Neubauer, Chuck (17 June 2004). "A Sibling Symbiosis in the Capitol". Los Angeles Times. 
  16. ^ Lillis, Mike (2010-10-17). "Rahall takes sole credit for blocking bill to end mountaintop mining". The Hill. Retrieved 2010-10-17. 
  17. ^ "Rahall Proposes Mine Safety Reforms". WTRF. 2010-06-29. Retrieved 2010-10-17. 
  18. ^ Biggers, Jeff (9 June 2009). "Should Wilderness Society Strip US Rep. Nick Rahall of the Ansel Adams Award?". The Huffington Post. 
  19. ^ "U.S. HOUSE CANDIDATE CONVERSATIONS — Nick Rahall". Register Herald. Retrieved 2010-10-14. 
  20. ^ Dems join GOP in fight to block EPA climate rules
  21. ^ Boucher, David (3-9-2013). "Rahall to officially start re-election bid". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  22. ^ Kercheval, Hoppy (5-1-2013). "Rahall vote gives opponents ammo". West Virginia Metro News. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 165". Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  25. ^ Brian Montopoli (21 March 2010). "Stupak to Vote Yes on Health Care Bill". CBS News. 
  26. ^ "Reps vote to repeal health reform". News& 17 May 2013. 
  27. ^ "House Vote 638 - Repeals 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". 
  28. ^ a b Full text of House Resolution 3: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
  29. ^ "What is 'forcible rape' exactly?". The Washington Post. 
  30. ^ "Rahall endorses Barack Obama". The Herald Dispatch. 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  31. ^ "CSPAN Today in Washington". CSPAN. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b "Office of the House Clerk – Electoral Statistics". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. 
  34. ^ "Election Results". Federal Election Commission. 
  35. ^ "General Election - November 6, 2012 -- Official Results". Secretary of State of West Virginia. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  36. ^ "Biography". 
  37. ^ "Questions raised about Nick Rahall helping son". Politico. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  38. ^ "Democrat Nick Rahall misused official stationery". Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  39. ^ Pergram, Chad (2010-08-12). "Second Congressman allegedly misuses stationary". Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  40. ^ Lavender, Dave (29 October 2008). "Hillbilly Hot Dogs owners featured in host's cookbook and best of episode". Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, WV). Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  41. ^ "Nick Rahall Jumps From a Plane for Coal. Here’s Why.". Washington Independent. 20 July 2009. 
  42. ^ Goldstein, Katherine (20 August 2009). "Rep. Nick Rahall Jumps Out Of A Plane For The Coal Lobby". The Huffington Post. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ken Hechler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 4th congressional district

District eliminated
Preceded by
Bob Wise
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 3rd congressional district

Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Pombo
Chairman of House Natural Resources Committee
Succeeded by
Doc Hastings
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Henry Waxman
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
James Sensenbrenner