Ex-coal CEO Don Blankenship planning W. Va. senate run, 7 months after prison release

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy who was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in safety violations related to an explosion that killed 29 miners in 2010, is planning to run for U.S. Senate in West Virginia in 2018, ABC affiliate WCHS-TV reported Wednesday morning. A national Republican official also confirmed Blankenship’s plans to ABC News.

Blankenship, who was released from federal prison last May, has continued to maintain that he is innocent despite the conviction and prison sentence.

WCHS reported that Blankenship “filed his federal election official papers Tuesday … He will be running as a Republican.”

The FEC has not yet received paperwork from Blankenship, but the Secretary of the U.S. Senate’s office told ABC that they are expecting his statement of candidacy to be filed on Thursday.

Blankenship tweeted Wednesday night, “We will be putting out a new ad tomorrow morning on TV, Facebook, and more. It will be a shocker. Government corruption is pandemic and obvious.”

Blankenship has been a longtime critic of West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Machin, who he will be trying to unseat in 2018.

Reacting to the news, Manchin’s senate campaign released the following statement, referring to Blankenship’s entrance into the race as some sort of deal with Mitch McConnell: “Joe Manchin is focused on working in the Senate for West Virginia families, not campaign politics. He won’t be distracted by Mitch McConnell’s backroom deals in Washington, D.C.”

One of Blankenship’s primary opponents, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, said in a statement Wednesday, “Everyone has a right to run for public office. I welcome anyone into this contest, but I will continue to run on my positive record of obtaining conservative results for coal miners and West Virginia taxpayers, fighting for the unborn, protecting gun rights, and ridding the state of this terrible opioid epidemic.”

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins is the other major Republican in the race to take on Manchin. The Republican Primary will take place on May 8, 2018.

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