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Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to run for U.S. Senate

Eyewitness News has learned that former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship plans to run for U.S. Senate. (WCHS/WVAH)

Eyewitness News has learned that former Massey Energy chief executive officer Don Blankenship plans to run for U.S. Senate.

Blankenship filed his federal election official papers Tuesday. He will be running as a Republican.

He is one of the most well-known figures in West Virginia and has continued to push for a full investigation of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in 2010. Blankenship contends the Mine Safety and Health Administration caused the blast after it reduced the ventilation air flow through the mine.

Blankenship has been a long-time critic of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Manchin, a Democrat, is seeking re-election. In the Republican primary, Blankenship will square off against U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

In February, Blankenship’s petition for a rehearing of his appeal of his conviction was denied by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In January, the court already had ruled that U.S. District Court in Charleston committed no reversible errors and denied Blankenship’s battle to get his conviction overturned.

Blankenship served a one-year sentence at a California prison for conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards.

Blankenship's misdemeanor conviction came after 24 days of testimony in connection with his involvement in the Upper Big Branch explosion that killed 29 men in 2010.

In briefs filed earlier this year, Blankenship's attorneys said the jury pool in Charleston was biased against him, the prosecution was politically motivated and the trial controlled by rulings unfair to the defense.

A defiant Don Blankenship declared himself an "American political prisoner" on his blog, blaming others for the 2010 mine explosion. The ex-Massey Energy CEO distributed 250,000 copies of the 67-page diatribe in booklet form.

After Blankenship's announcement, Sen. Joe Manchin released the following statement:

“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.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey took to Twitter following the announcement that Blankenship would run for U.S. Senate.

Congressman Evan Jenkins released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“Every citizen has the right to run for office, and I have no doubt that West Virginia Republicans will choose their nominee with careful consideration. My candidacy offers voters a clear choice on issues they care about most, a fighter for our shared West Virginia values, a close working relationship with President Trump and the one candidate West Virginia voters can count on to defeat Joe Manchin.”

The AP contributed to this story

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