Elections

Convicted Ex-Coal Boss Prepares West Virginia Senate Bid On GOP Ticket

A former coal executive who served timed for conspiracy to violate mine safety laws is running for Senate in West Virginia.

Don Blankenship, who formerly ran West Virginia-based Massey Energy, will face state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins in the Republican primary. Blankenship is a long-shot candidate thanks to his legal problems.

The former coal CEO served a one-year prison sentence earlier this year for conspiring to violate mining regulations after a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 people. Blankenship said during the hearing in 2016 that he was “not guilty of a crime,” and told the families of the coal miners they were “great guys, great coal miners.”

Blankenship, a stalwart supporter of President Donald Trump, could go toe-to-toe with long-time nemesis, incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin, in the general election if he manages to make it through the primary unscathed.

Manchin was the governor of the state at the time of the disaster and routinely denounced the former Massey coal tycoon’s handing of the incident. Blankenship, in turn, claimed Manchin was a central figure in a crusade against him.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger also fined Blankenship $250,000 for the misdemeanor charge. A jury in West Virginia acquitted him of securities-related felony charges that could have resulted in a far longer sentence.

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