‘It is not surprising that more and more West Virginians would be supporting Don Blankenship…’
(Liberty Headlines, Joshua Paladino) Outsider candidate Don Blankenship jumped to second place in the Republican Senate primary race in West Virginia, The Intelligencer reported. The winner will face Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.
Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy Company, facing U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and he’s gaining ground.
Blankenship’s campaign spokesman Greg Thomas expressed skepticism about the polling, which was commissioned by Jenkins.
“While we don’t have much confidence in other people’s polls, it is not surprising that more and more West Virginians would be supporting Don Blankenship,” Thomas said. “Don’s message of being a proven job creator and a conservative leader in West Virginia who will fight against the D.C. establishment is being received well everywhere we go.”
A recent poll by Harper Polling found that Jenkins leads the race with 29 percent of the vote. Blankenship follows close behind with 27 percent, and Morrisey has 19 recent.
This shows a significant shift in the race, as Jenkins and Morrisey were the two leading candidates a month ago.
At the time, Jenkins led with 33 percent, Morrisey was in second with 25 percent, and Blankenship had 18 percent of the vote.
Paula Jean Swearengin, an activist who brands herself as more progressive than Manchin, is the only other declared candidate in the Democratic primary.
An unofficial poll conducted by Justice Democrats, who endorsed Swearengin, found that Manchin had 46 percent of the vote while Swearengin had about 8 percent.
Blankenship gained ground with a $1.8 million TV advertising campaign, primarily aimed at Morrisey’s alleged connection to special interest groups.
Morrisey’s wife, Denise, is a lobbyist and Washington, D.C.
Blankenship has also alleged connections between Morrisey and pharmaceutical companies.
“Patrick Morrisey has not gained any traction and the voters are concerned about his deep ties to the drug industry, D.C. lobbying background, and the fact that he ran for Congress in 2000 from New Jersey, touting his Jersey values,” Jenkins said.
Blankenship has a past that concerns some voters, too.
He served as CEO of Massey Energy from 2000 to 2010.
In 2008, it was the 6th largest coal company in the United States.
But he ended his career in coal with legal issues.
A jury acquitted him of lying about safety standards at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine, where an accident in 2010 killed 29 workers.
He had been charged with conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards. He served one year in prison.
Since his release, Blankenship has divided West Virginia coal country.
Some view him as a hero who the federal government wrongly imprisoned.
Steve Blair, a retired miner who worked under Blankenship’s leadership, said he believes the federal government conspired against his former boss.
“The federal government turned everybody loose to testify against him, just to get rid of him,” Blair said, according to the New York Times.
Others view him as a traitor to his employees.
Judy Jones Petersen, the sister of Dean Jones, who died in the accident, has no sympathy for the coal mogul.
“You took 29 lives away from families like mine,” she said. “Shame on you for coming back.”
Many West Virginians who received their livelihood from coal view Blankenship’s candidacy as a repudiation of President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations that they believe destroyed the industry.
“I was put out of business by Obama,” Blair said.
Obama’s coal regulations changed the political landscape in West Virginia.
Blair was a Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008.
Now he’s defending Blankenship, the outsider candidate who promises to bring back coal country.
Blankenship’s past earned him the lowest disapproval rating among the three candidates, at 51 percent.
Morrisey sits at 38 percent and Jenkins at 21 percent.
Jenkins said his clean record will win out in the end.
“The primary is just eight weeks away and it’s a two-way race now between me and Don,” Jenkins said. “I know being in the lead makes me the target of negative attacks from the other candidates. But I think as voters learn more about my strong West Virginia roots and values, conservative record of accomplishments and close working relationship with President Trump, they will see through the mudslinging and know I’m the best candidate to take on and defeat Manchin in November.”