Former Massey Energy chief executive officer Don Blankenship who was convicted for conspiracy to violate federal mine safety laws following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010 that killed 29 miners will run for Senate in West Virginia.
West Virginia television station WCHS was the first to report that Blankenship intends to run as a republican and challenge incumbent Democrat Joe Mancin. Blankenship will face West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins in the Republican primary.
Blankenship was CEO of Massey Energy in 2010 when the deadly explosion occurred at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine. He served a one-year prison sentence in California conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards. He has continued to push for a full investigation of the explosion contending the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) caused the blast after it reduced the ventilation air flow through the mine.
In February, Blankenship’s petition for a rehearing of his appeal of his conviction was denied by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In January, the court already had ruled that U.S. District Court in Charleston committed no reversible errors and denied Blankenship’s battle to get his conviction overturned.
If he wins the GOP nomination, he would face Manchin, who was governor at the time of the disaster and a leading figure in denouncing Blankenship. Blankenship, in turn, has charged that Manchin was central to a political campaign against him.
After Blankenship's announcement, Manchin released the following statement:
“Joe Manchin is focused on working in the Senate for West Virginia families, not campaign politics. He won’t be distracted by Mitch McConnell’s backroom deals in Washington, D.C.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey took to Twitter following the announcement that Blankenship would run for U.S. Senate.
Congressman Evan Jenkins released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
“Every citizen has the right to run for office, and I have no doubt that West Virginia Republicans will choose their nominee with careful consideration. My candidacy offers voters a clear choice on issues they care about most, a fighter for our shared West Virginia values, a close working relationship with President Trump and the one candidate West Virginia voters can count on to defeat Joe Manchin.”