CHARLESTON — Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship launched his campaign to win the Republican nomination for the Senate seat in the 2018 mid-term election on Thursday with an ad criticizing the investigation of the Upper Big Branch disaster.
Blankenship, 67, was released from a California prison in May after serving one year for misdemeanor conspiracy to violate safety regulations at the Upper Big Branch mine, where 29 coal miners died in an April 2010 explosion. Blankenship served as chairmain and CEO of Massey from 2000 until shortly after the explosion.
He announced to Charleston media outlets he had filed his federal papers to run as a Republican for Senate. The Federal Election Commission does not yet have record of his filing. However, Blankenship’s representative, Greg Thomas, confirmed the news.
Although Blankenship did not announce his plans to run for Senate on his personal Twitter page, he took to Twitter Wednesday night announcing the ads.
“We will be putting out a new ad tomorrow morning on TV, Facebook and more. It will be a shocker. Government corruption is pandemic and obvious,” Blankenship tweeted.
Blankenship issued a news release Thursday on the launch of the ad. The 30-second spot criticizes the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s investigation of the Upper Big Branch mining disaster.
He will run against Congressman Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the May 8 primary in their bid for the Senate seat currently filled by Sen. Joe Manchin.
Outgoing state GOP chair Conrad Lucas weighed in on Blankenship’s run Thursday.
“It’s six months to the primary and this is a time for all candidates, including Mr. Blankenship, to get the message out. It’s up to the voters to decide,” Lucas said. “We have a crowded field right now for the Republican nomination. It shows the number of folks who are interested in defeating Joe Manchin.”
The West Virginia Democratic Party released a statement after news of Blankenship’s run for office accusing Mitch McConnell of recruiting him to attack Manchin and distract from the Republican primary.
In the Thursday release, the party cited a Wall Street Journal article that said Blankenship notified the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Tuesday.
“Republicans should be nervous,” the release said. “It looks like Blankenship made a deal with his buddy Mitch McConnell to get in the race and attack Senator Joe Manchin so that voters won’t notice the mudslinging in the Republican Party.”
The Upper Big Branch explosion was the state’s worst coal-mining disaster in about 40 years. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Blankenship’s conviction, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.
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