Former coal CEO Don Blankenship planning W. Va. senate run, 7 months after prison release

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Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy who was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in safety violations related to an explosion that killed 29 miners in 2010, is planning to run for U.S. Senate in West Virginia in 2018, ABC affiliate WCHS reported Wednesday morning. A national Republican official also confirmed Blankenship’s plans to ABC News.

Blankenship, who was released from federal prison last May, has continued to maintain that he is innocent despite the conviction and prison sentence.

WCHS reported that Blakenship “filed his federal election official papers Tuesday … He will be running as a Republican.”

The FEC has not yet received paperwork from Blankenship, but the Secretary of the U.S. Senate’s office told ABC that they are expecting his statement of candidacy to be filed on Thursday.

Blankenship tweeted Wednesday night, “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 has been a longtime critic of West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin, who he will be trying to unseat in 2018.

PHOTO: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.Alex Brandon/AP Photo
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Reacting to the news, Manchin’s senate campaign released the following statement, referring to Blankenship’s entrance into the race as some sort of deal with Mitch McConnell: “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.”

PHOTO: West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey talks with guests during an event in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., on July 10, 2017, where he announced he will run for the Senate in 2018.Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey talks with guests during an event in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., on July 10, 2017, where he announced he will run for the Senate in 2018.
PHOTO: Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., walks down the House steps after the last votes of the week on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., walks down the House steps after the last votes of the week on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017.

One of Blankenship’s primary opponents, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, said in a statement Wednesday, “Everyone has a right to run for public office. I welcome anyone into this contest, but I will continue to run on my positive record of obtaining conservative results for coal miners and West Virginia taxpayers, fighting for the unborn, protecting gun rights, and ridding the state of this terrible opioid epidemic.”

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins is the other major Republican in the race to take on Manchin. The Republican primary will take place on May 8, 2018.





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