CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former coal executive Don Blankenship says he’s turning right back around and running for U.S. Senate again, this time on the Constitution Party ticket.
Blankenship, who spent a year in jail on a federal mine conspiracy conviction, finished third in the West Virginia Republican primary earlier this month.
The former Massey Energy chief developed a deep distaste for the Republican primary winner, incumbent Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and has said he wants to block Morrisey’s path to the U.S. Senate.
The incumbent in the Senate is Democrat Joe Manchin.
A West Virginia law described as a “sore loser” provision would seem to be in the way of Blankenship’s name on the November ballot.
But the Blankenship campaign has been discussing a legal argument that could call the wording of the law into question.
A spokesman with the Secretary of State’s Office said Monday it would be premature to comment on a Blankenship candidacy because Blankenship hadn’t filed his certificate of candidacy. He has his changed his registration to Constitution Party.
In a news release issued today, Blankenship stated “although the establishment will likely begin their efforts against us by mounting a legal challenge to my candidacy, we are confident that — if challenged — our legal position will prevail, absent a politically motivated decision by the courts.”
Blankenship, in the release, said he will fit right in with the Constitution Party.
“I hold in the highest regard the founding principles of the United States Constitution and I am willing to fight to protect both West Virginia and America from all enemies—foreign and domestic,” he stated.
State Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said he was disappointed in Blankenship’s decision and called it sour grapes in a Monday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“When you put your name on a ballot and the party that you affiliate yourself with and those people decide there’s a better candidate that they want to move to the general election with, then you should accept those results from the people of West Virginia and move forward,” Carmichael said.
Blankenship has continued to say he was unfairly convicted as a result of the 2015 federal court trial that lasted nine weeks. He was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to violate mine safety regulations.
He repeated that position in his release about representing the Constitution Party.
“My First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment rights were violated when I was falsely charged and politically imprisoned following the unfortunate mining accident at Upper Big Branch,” he stated.
Carmichael said maybe Blankenship should have his case heard again but the U.S. Senate race is the wrong venue.
“You don’t use the political process to undermine the political process with your own personal vendettas,” he said.
House of Delegates Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said Blankenship’s decision “was clearly designed” to have Blankenship to stay part of the narrative.
“It’s likely to take votes away from (GOP nominee) Patrick Morrisey so I don’t know if he’s doing this to try and hurt Patrick Morrisey’s chances to win the U.S. Senate seat, which I don’t think he has much of a chance to begin with, but this just makes his chances worse,” Miley said.
MetroNews reporter Jeff Jenkins contributed to this story.