SOURCE: WV NEWS
JANUARY 29, 2024
CHARLESTON, W.V.a. (WV News) — The latest candidate to join the race to represent West Virginia in the U.S. Senate is a “fraud,” according to the president of the United Mine Workers of America.
In a statement released Monday, long-serving UMWA President Cecil Roberts denounced the candidacy of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.
Blankenship, who spent time in federal prison for the misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards after the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, filed to run for the Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Friday.
Previously a Republican, Blankenship officially switched his party affiliation and is running as a Democrat.
“I have seen a lot of things happen in West Virginia politics over the years, but seeing Don Blankenship file to run for the United States Senate as a Democrat may be the most fraudulent and cynical move I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot,” Roberts said.
The Upper Big Branch Mine disaster resulted in the deaths of 29 miners, the deadliest mining disaster in the country since 1970, according to data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
“Don Blankenship does not care about working families. He does not care one second about labor laws, health and safety laws, environmental laws — anything that can help ordinary people improve their lives, he is against it,” Roberts said. “I don’t agree with the positions Democrats have on several issues, but also don’t know a single Democrat in West Virginia or anywhere else who shares Don Blankenship’s worldview. If he’s a Democrat, then I’m Batman.”
Blankenship, during a phone interview with WV News shortly after he filed his candidacy paperwork with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, said he switched his party affiliation about “eight months ago or more.”
“When I ran in 2018, they sort of violated their party,” he said. “They put out stories that were false, but the most important thing to me is this drug epidemic in West Virginia is not being addressed by the Republican Party, and neither are the problems in the country.”
His biggest reason for running is to help residents realize “our enemy is the government and the politicians, and which party you’re in doesn’t really matter,” Blankenship said.
“The government is American’s worst enemy, and they are in fact destroying America while we’re being led to believe that there’s a fight between the left and right going on, when in fact it’s the government destroying us.”
In a statement released Monday responding to the reactions to his candidacy, Blankenship said former President Barack Obama and the UMWA are responsible for the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.
“The Democrat-controlled U.S. government under President Obama, and during their ‘War on American Coal,’ and with the assistance of former UMWA executives, caused the UBB explosion,” he said.
Blankenship ran for U.S. Senate in 2018 as a Republican, vying unsuccessfully against West Virginia Attorney Patrick Morrisey for the GOP nomination.
Blankenship finished third in 2018 GOP primary. He received 27,478 votes, or about 19.97% of the vote.
Blankenship unsuccessfully ran for president in 2020 as a Constitution Party candidate.