West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey defeated former coal CEO and ex-con Don Blankenship Tuesday as the GOP works to wrestle a senate seat away from the Democrats.
Morrisey beat back Republican opponents Blankenship and Even Jenkins in a bid to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Republicans were worried Blankenship, who served prison time for his alleged role in a 2010 mine explosion, would win and potentially scuttle the party’s chances of taking a winnable senate seat.
Indiana and West Virginia are two of the GOP’s best pickup opportunities as the party to expand on its slim 51-to-49 majority. Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Manchin of West Virginia are running for re-election in states that voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump.
Republicans feared their chances of defeating Manchin would have been dashed if Blankenship won the primary. Some prepared to disavow him like the party to Roy Moore in Alabama in 2017. Moore’s campaign was torpedoed after a slew of women accused the former judge of sexually assaulting them when they were teenagers.
Blankenship has run up against controversies too. He called Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky “Cocaine Mitch” in campaign ads — a reference to a drug-smuggling bust on a ship owned by his father-in-law’s family. He has also used “Negro” and “China people” in ads targeting the Kentucky Republican while also arguing he was not making racially motivated appeals.
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