Coal baron Don Blankenship loses West Virginia GOP Senate primary


Don Blankenship, a convicted criminal who oversaw a West Virginia mine at the time of a disaster that led to the deaths of 29 men, failed to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in West Virginia on Tuesday.

Blankenship finished third in the primary race behind both the winner, Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins, who came in second.

Blankenship is the former CEO of the coal company Massey Energy, where 29 coal miners died in a 2010 mining disaster. He was later found guilty of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws. Blankenship was released from prison in May 2017 and quickly launched his Senate bid.

The race became one of the most closely watched GOP primaries of the season, both because of Blankenship’s criminal history and his outlandish and racist remarks about Asian-Americans. In an attack against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Blankenship referred to McConnell’s wife, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, as a “China person.” Chao is the daughter of Taiwanese-American shipping magnate James Chao.

McConnell’s connection to his father-in-law also led Blankenship to bestow upon McConnell the dubious and confusing title “cocaine Mitch” — a reference to a 2014 incident in which 90 pounds of cocaine were reportedly found on a shipping vessel owned by the elder Chao.

“Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people,” Blankenship said in a last-ditch ad campaign.

“In doing so, Mitch has gotten rich,” Blankenship continued. “In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.”

After Blankenship’s loss, McConnell’s campaign team quickly posted a picture of McConnell to Twitter in what appears to be a cloud of loose cocaine, with the caption “Thanks for playing, Don.”

During his campaign, condemnation of Blankenship came from a wide swath of the Republican party, including President Donald Trump himself. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State...No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!”

Morrisey will face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who has faced pressure from Republicans in his home state to work with Trump.

May 15, 2018, 11:34 a.m.: This story has been updated.