CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Four of the former Republican candidates for U.S. Senate have announced their support for West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s bid for federal office.
The fifth, Don Blankenship, is not endorsing Morrisey.
U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., West Virginia National Guard Maj. Tom Willis, former coal miner Bo Copley and U.S. Navy veteran Jack Newbrough endorsed Morrisey’s efforts to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin following Tuesday’s primary results. Morrisey won the race with 34.8 percent of the vote, followed by Jenkins with 29 percent and Blankenship with 20 percent.
Jenkins announced his support for Morrisey at his campaign’s watch party in Barboursville. He reiterated his support for Morrisey — as well as support for U.S. Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney and House of Delegates Majority Whip Carol Miller, R-Cabell — in a joint statement with campaign chairman and West Virginia Auditor J.B. McCuskey.
“Our mission was always focused on the importance of bringing much-needed Republican representation to Washington. That commitment did not end on Tuesday,” Jenkins and McCuskey said on Wednesday. “We want to congratulate David McKinley, Alex Mooney, Carol Miller and Patrick Morrisey on their nominations, and look forward to working with them all the way to November.”
Miller is running to succeed Jenkins in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jenkins and Morrisey went back and forth throughout the campaign, with Jenkins targeting Morrisey’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry and previous residency in New York and New Jersey. Morrisey attacked Jenkins for past political activities as a Democrat. Jenkins joined the Republican Party in 2013 prior to running for the 3rd Congressional District seat.
Willis, who finished fourth with 9.8 percent of the vote, released a statement on May 2 attacking Morrisey and Jenkins, using similar points as the two.
“While Patrick Morrisey was busy lobbying in the swamp and moving to West Virginia to win political office, I was serving in the WV National Guard and creating jobs in West Virginia,” he said of the attorney general.
Willis also said Jenkins was a poor choice for the nomination because of the drug crisis in Huntington.
“While Evan Jenkins was flip-flopping and failing to lead his hometown and state to a better place, I was consistently conservative and leading Special Forces battalions around the world and in West Virginia,” he said.
Willis extended congratulations to Morrisey on Wednesday.
“It’s time for all the WV GOP to come behind Patrick to defeat Manchin so we can keep a Republican Majority in the US Senate and protect our Constitution!” he said on Facebook.
Former coal miner Bo Copley, who received 3 percent of the vote, called Morrisey “probably the rudest person in this race” on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“He’s not seen a conversation going on yet that he wouldn’t break up to be able to get some attention, to be able to talk too,” he said.
Copley is supporting Morrisey, but said Wednesday it is only because Morrisey is the conservative choice in the general election.
“We’re back to the lesser of two evils for me, which is why I ran in the first place,” he told MetroNews. “I’m tired of these exact scenarios. As a Christian conservative, I have to back a conservative over a liberal I don’t trust. I hope I don’t come off as bitter because I’m not. This was one of the scenarios I was hoping to avoid.”
Newbrough finished sixth with less than 3 percent of the vote. He said he would not endorse Morrisey at an April 30 debate at West Virginia State University.
“If he wins the Republican nomination, I will not back him and I am not afraid to say it and I’m letting it out there right now,” he said.
“I will never leave anyone alone on the battlefield,” he added.
Blankenship is not endorsing Morrisey, saying in a statement Wednesday that Morrisey and Manchin will follow orders from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., respectively rather than advocate for West Virginian’s needs.
“It’s heartbreaking to see West Virginia and America people suffer,” he said. “If our country does not wake up soon, China will be the world’s only superpower. America First needs to be more than a campaign slogan. My sincere apologies to those that understand the importance of putting America First. I failed them, yet I do not know what more I could have done. West Virginia people deserve better.”
Part of Blankenship’s strategy was going after McConnell, who the former Massey Energy CEO dubbed “Cocaine Mitch.” The nickname is connected to a 2014 story in the Nation stating 90 pounds of cocaine were found on a shipping vessel owned by a company founded by McConnell’s father-in-law.
Blankenship also said McConnell’s father-in-law had influence over him as a “wealthy Chinaperson.” McConell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and her family immigrated from China,
McConnell’s campaign responded to Blankenship’s loss on on Twitter, tweeting Tuesday an image of McConnell similar to a poster for the Netflix show “Narcos,” a drama about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.
“Thanks for playing, Don,” the caption reads.
— Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) May 9, 2018
Blankenship said the tweet is proof McConnell is not an “American person.”
“Thousands die from cocaine use year after year, and he thinks it’s funny that his family’s shipping business hauls cocaine on the high seas,” he said. “It is not funny. It is sickening.”
Blankenship also released an open letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday regarding the outcome of the primary; Trump tweeted Monday voters should consider either Jenkins or Morrisey for the Republican nomination, comparing the primary in West Virginia to the special election last year in Alabama. Democrat Doug Jones defeated the Republican candidate Roy Moore following allegations of sexual misconduct.
“To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State,” he said. “No way! Remember Alabama.”
Blankenship said in the letter Trump published “fake news” that hurt his chances of winning the nomination.
“You, yourself, also spread fake news against me,” he said. “Your interference in the West Virginia election displayed a lack of understanding of the likely outcome of the upcoming general election. Patrick Morrisey will likely lose the general election. It’s too late to change that, but it’s not helpful to do to me what others are doing to you.”
Blankenship also said Trump is justified in speaking about “fake news and the corrupt Obama-era Department of Justice,” using Blankenship’s experience regarding the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion as the point of comparison.
“The attacks on me began 33 years ago and culminated with my being falsely charged with three felonies. Even though the odds of beating three felonies are at least 150 to 1, I did beat all three that were levied against me” he said. “However, I was then sent to prison for a fake misdemeanor charge and conviction — a fact your son, Mitch McConnell, and even Fox News all ignore when they call me a felon.”
“I look forward to meeting with you in the near future,” Blankenship closed the letter.
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration reported in December 2011 factors in the fatal explosion included intimidation of workers and advance notice of inspections.