CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When West Virginia Attorney General and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey walked into the conference room of his Charleston campaign headquarters on Sunday, he was greeted by a small group of supporters holding signs.
“Keep the faith, baby,” he told them. “Two more days.”
But Morrisey isn’t coasting to Election Day on Tuesday; the purpose of the press conference was to go after one of his opponents former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and an unfiled personal financial disclosure form.
Candidates are required to file this form under the Ethics in Government Act to report employment, investments, income and potential conflicts of interests. The Republicans candidates for Senate, with the exception of Blankenship, submitted their information by the April 8 deadline.
“This required information is basic, but is very important for voters,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey announced his campaign will inform Blankenship’s probation office of the issue in order to determine if the missed filing violates his supervised release.
“West Virginians don’t need a candidate who may not be able to campaign in the state against Joe Manchin,” he said. “Laws exist for a reason. There are no exceptions or waivers for a rich coal baron who has already been found guilty of conspiring to violate mining standards.”
Blankenship served one year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety standards in connection with the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, in which 29 coal miners died. He has denied responsibility for the disaster.
Blankenship told MetroNews he filed an extension because of the campaign and other “complications.”
“As far as I know, we’re in good stead on that,” he said.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported on April 9 that Blankenship had not filed a form.
“It’s public knowledge that I hadn’t filed the report,” he said. “As far as the misdemeanor conviction. And what I saw of the press conference, I didn’t see any news.”
Morrisey has spent most of his attacks going after U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., who Morrisey has called a “liberal in hiding.” Morrisey said at a rally last week in Huntington a vote for Blankenship would provide Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., an easy path to reelection.
“To be honest, I thought that West Virginians would see through the candidacy of Don Blankenship even more,” Morrisey said Sunday. “As he’s moving up getting very close in the polls, I think it’s in the public interest to be able to talk about this information. Don Blankenship is not a credible candidate. I want to make sure we get this information out before the election.”
The attorney general said the race among Republicans is down between him and Blankenship.
“His biggest supporter is Senator Chuck Schumer (of New York,)” Morrisey said. “Don would be the top recruit of Chuck Schumer this cycle because he hands the election to Joe Manchin.”
Blankenship said he thinks he would “quite easily” beat Manchin in November, adding Morrisey’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry hurt his chances.
“I don’t think Mr. Morrisey could beat Joe Manchin,” he said. “I did think he could at one point during this campaign but with the things he’s done, I don’t think he can beat Joe Manchin.”
Morrisey represented drug companies when previously serving as a lobbyist. His wife is also a lobbyist.
“With some of those facts that came out, Joe Manchin will destroy him in the general election,” Blankenship said.
Mountain Families PAC, which has ties to the national GOP, has spent $1.3 million going after Blankenship.
The latest message: “Evan Jenkins and Patrick Morrisey are the true conservatives. Don’t vote Don Blankenship.”
The former coal executive said those attacks are not working.
“Obviously, people now understand more about the misdemeanor conviction and the explosion, and they’re not buying into what was Barack Obama’s story that now Patrick Morrisey endorsing,” he said.
Andy Sere, the chief strategist for the Jenkins campaign, said Morrisey’s move was a “desperate, wailing about” related to last week’s Fox News debate in Morgantown.
“I think Patrick Morrisey is looking at some polling data that shows Don Blankenship’s candidacy is really starting to eat into his own numbers,” he said. “On the debate stage the other night, I think Don probably got a bump from that debate and I think Evan performed very, very strongly. I think the consensus seems to be that Patrick Morrisey came out with the short end of the stick there and is attacking Don.”
When asked if he would support Manchin over Blankenship in a potential general election bout, Morrisey said he is more focused on winning Tuesday.
“Because I plan to win the nomination, I’m not going to have to worry about endorsing the other candidates,” he said. “I am intending to win this election and plan to win this election. I don’t think Don Blankenship is a credible candidate, so this is not a good time to suggest anyone would be or should be endorsing Don Blankenship.”
Blankenship spokesman Greg Thomas tweeted Saturday that Blankenship was looking forward to receiving Morrisey’s support after Tuesday.
“We understand the frustration that Mr. Morrisey is feeling and don’t want to bicker with him,” he said.