Don Blankenship — the only candidate for the Republican nomination for Senate in West Virginia and a man with a prior conviction for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards after an explosion at one of his company’s mines killed 29 people — still markets himself as a native Appalachian fighting for the American values embodied by Donald Trump.
The New York Times, however, has discovered the dirty secret of which Trumpian values Blankenship truly embodies, and West Virginians may be surprised at what they’ve found.
The former coal mining executive is campaigning as an advocate for the same coal miners whose safety he ignored when he was head of the Massey Energy Company and is airing primary ads that dispute the established facts in his conviction.
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Yet while painting himself as a down-home West Virginian and patriotic American, the newspaper article reveals that Blankenship lives primarily in $2.4 million Las Vegas home with an infinity pool surrounded by palm trees rather than an open pit mine.
The New York Times also revealed that the candidate running a Trump-style America First, environment be damned campaign “admires China’s state-controlled economy and has expressed interest in gaining Chinese citizenship.”
Despite his deplorable role in the deaths of the coal miners working for his safety-deficient energy company, Blankenship has attracted enough support among West Virginia Republicans that the national leadership of his party is getting worried about the consequences should he become the eventual party nominee in the general election against incumbent Senator Joe Manchin.
While Manchin is a rare “Blue Dog” Democrat who often votes with Republicans to preserve his seat in a conservative-leaning state, Republican leaders see his seat as one of the most vulnerable in November’s midterm elections and don’t want to blow their chances of winning the election by running a candidate with such obviously attackable flaws.
This has led to the ironically bizarre circumstance of a super PAC associated with Mitch McConnell spending valuable campaign funds to run ads attacking a fellow Republican for poisoning West Virginia’s drinking water with coal mining runoff.
Blankenship for his part seems to be unrepentant for his career in coal extraction. An enthusiastic exponent of unfettered capitalism, he longs for an environment free of pesky government regulations. Yet, in a seeming contradiction, Blankenship expresses admiration for the iron-fisted control of the economy that China wields over its heavily regulated market.
“The Chinese are running a dictatorial capitalism and it’s very effective. That’s the way corporations are run. Corporations are not a democracy.”
A convicted conspirator on parole and carpetbagger who admires dictatorial powers is exactly the kind of person that you’d expect to support Trump, but not exactly the kind of candidate that West Virginia needs.
If even someone as amorally self-interested as Mitch McConnell can see that, it’s amazing that Blankenship is still in the race, but with the tens of millions he earned when he sold his interest in Massey Energy financing his campaign, even the Republicans aren’t taking any chances at having to field a damaged candidate when every race is so crucial to their retaining power in the Senate.
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