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With control of the U.S. Senate in play, races in Kentucky and Ohio gave Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell some early help in maintaining his hold.

In Kentucky, incumbent Republican Rand Paul handily defeated Democratic challenger Jim Gray, the Lexington mayor.

In Ohio — a big-spending race that attracted more than $50 million in outside spending –incumbent Republican Rob Portman held onto his seat, defeating former Governor Ted Strickland.

The coal industry’s decline was a major theme of both races, and early returns show coal-producing counties voting heavily for Republicans.

As expected, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has won Kentucky and West Virginia and is doing well in other parts of Appalachian coal country.  

Jeff Young is the Managing Editor of The Ohio Valley ReSource.