CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship filed Tuesday to run for the United States Senate, the third Republican to file with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

Blankenship was released in May 2017 after serving a one-year sentence for conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws in connection with the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. He remains on probation until May 9, a day after the primary election will be held.

Blankenship has gone after the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration since his release, saying the federal government lied about what caused the explosion that killed 29 miners. MSHA reported in December 2011 the coal dust explosion started as a methane ignition, and was the result of multiple safety violations, including the intimidation of miners and advance notice of inspections.

Blankenship has previously said the government forced Massey Energy to use a poor air filtration system, which caused the explosion.

“The government came in, cut the air in half and the gas came out of the ground. Natural gas, not coal-bed methane that the miners could do anything about, and we had an explosion,” he said on MetroNews “Talkline.” “If anything would have stopped it, it would have been more air, which we had advocated for all those years.”

No report has been published supporting Blankenship’s claims.

Blankenship said his campaign will not be centered on his problems with MSHA, but rather the future of West Virginia, noting the similarities between his agenda and that of President Donald Trump.

“My views are more similar to his than anyone else’s for sure, and I think I understand the business element of it better than any of the other candidates,” he said. “Certainly, with me in the office of Senate that we will get a better result than with (Democratic Sen. Joe) Manchin or someone.”

Blankenship added he does not have a relationship with Trump, but feels the president would support the campaign during the general election.

“I don’t know the fictional character the media has created or that the liberals have created,” he said. “I think once people know who Don Blankenship is, I will win this election.”

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., and business owner Tom Willis filed with the Secretary of State’s office earlier this month to run as Republicans. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and former coal miner Bo Copley announced their campaigns last year for the Republican nomination and have yet to file to run.

Manchin told the New York Times Tuesday he will submit the forms related to his re-election bid on Friday. The final day for candidates to file with the state is Saturday.

 

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