Don Blankenship filed paperwork on Tuesday to have his name added to the West Virginia Senate ballot in November. (Image source: Video screenshot)
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The West Virginia Senate race just got a little more interesting now that former coal mine tycoon Don Blankenship has re-entered the contest as a candidate for the Constitution Party. However, West Virginia's "sour grapes" law may bar him from appearing on the ballot.
On Tuesday, he filed his certificate of candidacy in person at the West Virginia secretary of state's office. Blankenship will challenge incumbent Joe Manchin (D) and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) in November.
"Today, I officially filed my paperwork for the office of U.S. Senate as a member of the Constitution Party. As I have repeatedly said, I am the only candidate who cannot be bought by out of state billionaires and I will work hard to drain the swamp," Blankenship tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
The failed GOP primary candidate, who lost to Morrisey in May, announced last week that he had gathered enough signatures in his petition drive to have his name added to the midterm ballot. He accepted the Constitution Party nomination shortly after his primary defeat.
How could Blankenship's candidacy affect the race?
The Cook Political Report has ranked the race as a toss-up between Manchin and Morrisey, but Blankenship's re-entry could be the factor that swings the race either way.
Some voters believe Blankenship could shake up the match enough to guarantee Manchin maintains his seat, but Blankenship said he's confident he'll clinch the win.
"I don't think so because I'm pretty well-known in southern West Virginia which is where Joe will have a big margin if I'm not in the race. But I expect to take enough votes from both of them to win the election," Blankenship told WOWK-TV.
The wealthy candidate said he's willing to spend an unlimited amount of money to seize the Senate seat.
"It's always that way," he told reporters Tuesday. "Whatever it takes to win,"
What did Morrisey say?
"Voters won't be distracted by efforts to divert attention away from lying liberal Joe Manchin’s record of supporting pro-abortion policies, gun control, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign against coal miners," Morrisey said in a written statement to TheBlaze.
What do Democratic Party leaders say?
"You know I just think it offers folks another choice and I think it shows the chaos that's with the Republican Party that they are not satisfied with their candidate," WV Democratic Party chairperson Belinda Biafore said, according to WOWK.
What about the sour grapes law?
The secretary of state told WOWK in a statement on Tuesday that a decision regarding Blankenship's eligibility would be made by the close of business Wednesday.
“Candidates affiliated with a recognized political party who run for election in a primary election and who lose the nomination cannot change her or his voter registration to a minor party organization/unaffiliated candidate to take advantage of the later filing deadlines and have their name on the subsequent general election ballot,” according to West Virginia election laws.
Blankenship has called the sour grapes law unconstitutional.
If the secretary of state rules that he cannot run because of the law, Blankenship would likely contest the decision.
Controversy has surrounded Blankenship.
Ahead of May's GOP primary, the candidate launched political TV ads that attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Chinese-American wife Elaine Chao who serves as U.S. secretary of transportation.
In the ad, Blankenship referred to McConnell as "cocaine Mitch" and used the terms "China People" and "China family."
“Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich,” Blankenship said in the ad. “In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars. Mitch’s swamp people are now running false negative ads about me. They are also childishly calling me despicable and mentally ill. The war to drain the swamp and create jobs for West Virginia people has begun. I will beat Joe Manchin and ditch cocaine Mitch for the sake of the kids.”
Blankenship has denied that his China references were racist.
He's also an ex-con.
In 2016, a federal judge sentenced the former Massey CEO to a year in prison for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards related to the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in 2010 that left 29 miners dead. He was released from prison in May 2017 after serving 12 months.
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