A GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in West Virginia is calling on “swamp captain” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to stop interfering in the Republican primary in his state.
Candidate Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, blasted McConnell in a statement released after a super PAC with suspected ties to GOP leadership began airing TV ads against his campaign. He compared McConnell’s interference to Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.
“McConnell should not be in the U.S. Senate, let alone be the Republican Majority Leader. He is a Swamp captain,” Blankenship said. “He does not understand that it is past time for Congress to put our country above politics and self-interest.”
“McConnell and Schumer remind me of pro-wrestlers,” he continued. “They act like they are fighting one another but actually they are just entertaining us while they are taking our money. The Russians and McConnell should both stop interfering with elections outside their jurisdictions.”
National Republicans fear Blankenship’s candidacy could jeopardize their chances of defeating incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., in the 2018 midterms. A political realignment in the Mountain State following the Obama administration’s war on coal has swept Republicans into power in the state legislature and convinced Governor Jim Justice to switch his party affiliation last year from Democratic to Republican. Manchin, a Democrat serving in a state that heavily favored Republican President Donald Trump in 2016, is signaling weakness and has seen his approval rating drop recently.
Concerns over Blankenship’s candidacy stem from his 2015 misdemeanor conviction and one-year sentence for conspiring to violate mine health and safety standards during his time as Massey’s CEO. Under his leadership in 2010, a disastrous explosion occurred, killing 29 miners, at his company’s Upper Big Branch Mine. McConnell’s allies are attempting to define Blankenship as another flawed candidate like Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican who lost his race to Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., amid accusations that he sexually assaulted three women, two of whom were underage, and pursued relationships with other teenagers while in his thirties.
Blankenship contends that his conviction was politically motivated. He calls himself a “political prisoner” and points his finger at the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration for requiring installation of an inadequate ventilation system. Government investigators said the evidence does not support Blankenship’s claims; they concluded that Massey Energy did not clean up coal dust sufficiently, which caused the explosion.
Regardless, Blankenship is hitting back hard against claims he is anything like Roy Moore.
“The media, McConnell and others also like to spread the rumor that my candidacy is akin to that of Roy Moore. This is nonsense. Roy Moore’s accusers were women and teenage girls. My accusers are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I was imprisoned for a misdemeanor based on false charges and a political prosecution. This followed Obama appointees blowing up a coal mine. The current investigation into my prosecution will bring that truth to light.”
He is encouraging the Senate majority leader to focus on Washington’s problems, like the $21 trillion national debt.
“West Virginians are aware that McConnell cannot vote in their election,” his statement concludes. “They want him to mind his own business and do his job. A job he has not done now for over 30 years. Balance the budget Mitch and stay out of West Virginia.”
There are five other candidates running in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate nomination, including U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and army veteran Tom Willis.
The primary election is May 8.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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