PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — When he got into the race for U.S. Senate in West Virginia most probably considered Don Blankenship a long shot at best. However, the former Massey Energy CEO, who spent a year in federal prison, is now showing himself to be a bigger contender than early pundits would have believed in the race for the Republican nomination. When you talk to him, he believes he’ll win it and he’s supremely confident in his chances to unseat U.S. Senator Joe Manchin in November.
“I’ll beat Manchin 15 to 20 points,” said Blankenship in a Friday appearance on Metronews Talkline. “It’s insanity for anybody to believe Joe Manchin can do the things he’s done, he’s abandoned the NRA, he’s abandoned Right to Life, he’s abandoned West Virginia’s voters. He’s proven himself to be willing to do anything from a diploma, to make a fortune on EpiPens, to putting his wife on the payroll so to speak. That matters to people.”
Blankenship already had an axe to grind with Manchin over the investigation into the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster before he got into the race. Blankenship doggedly sticks to his contention the explosion at the Massey Energy mine under his watch was caused by mistakes from MSHA and the investigation was corrupted by Manchin, President Obama, and others to hide the truth.
Federal and state investigators concluded the explosion started with a methane ignition which ignited excessive coal dust in the mine. The presence of the excess dust was created by poorly maintained ventilation and a lack of proper rock dusting according to the officials investigation. Blankenship maintained the ignition was a result of natural gas and the lack of ventilation created in an order from MSHA to change air plans in the mine against the judgment of Massey engineers.
Eventually Blankenship was convicted of a misdemeanor violation of mine safety laws and served the maximum one year in prison. While most think the conviction will be hard to overcome, Blankenship says Manchin is the one who will struggle.
“Everybody already knows what Joe Manchin is going to say, that I have blood on my hands,” explained Blankenship. “He also said the day before that he didn’t know any of the facts. Rockefeller said I didn’t deserve a fair trail and he championed the appointment of the judge. Most people in Charleston know (former US Attorney Booth) Goodwin and what they stand for.”
Blankenship further claimed he was the only candidate in the crowded primary field for the GOP Senate race who could beat Manchin. He ripped both Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Congressman Evan Jenkins.
“Taking money from the pharmaceutical lobbyists and from planned parenthood for a campaign, West Virginians can figure out you’re not against drugs and you’re not against abortion,” said Blankenship of Morrisey. “Everybody who knows politics in southern West Virginia knows Evan Jenkins is just ‘Little Joe.'”
During his Talkline appearance, Blankenship spent time on issues as well. He’s on board with President Trump’s tarrif plan, provided it’s administered carefully.
“It’s going to be very unpopular,” he explained. “But the trade policy of the past are why we have really wealthy people on Wall Street and very poor people in America. We took their jobs away to make money for big corporations–many of which represent themselves as Americans, but are really international corporations.”
Blankenship also backed Trump’s plan for a border wall and until then National Guard troops to patrol.
“I don’t know why we’re defending the borders in Iraq and the borders in Syria and we’re not defending the borders with Mexico,” he said.