In WV, Ex-Con That Caused The Deaths Of 29 Coal Miners Set To Win GOP Primary

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Don Blankenship spent a year in prison after an explosion in one of his mines killed 29 people in 2010.

Former coal company CEO and ex-convict Don Blankenship is reportedly positioned to claim victory in the West Virginia Republican primary, potentially setting up Republicans for a showdown reminiscent of the Roy Moore debacle in Alabama.

Blankenship appears to have shot ahead in recent polls, placing the Senate candidate "narrowly ahead" of his opponents.

Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy Company, served one year in prison for conspiring to violate federal mine safety in the lead up to the 2010 explosion at the Massey-owned Upper Big Branch mine that left 29 people dead. Once he was released, he announced that he would run for Senate.

It’s not hard to understand why the Republican establishment might be uncomfortable with Blankenship as a candidate. His team has run several controversial TV ads, including one that referred to the family of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, as “chinapersons.” Later, Blanksenhip defended the ad by saying it wasn’t racist because he never mentioned any of the races, which according to him, are “Negro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian.”

Republicans are working hard to steer voters toward one of two other Republican candidates, Attorney General Patrick Morrissey or Congressman Evan Jenkins.

According to Mother Jones, a McConnell linked outside group has thrown more than $1 million into the mix via television ads urging voters to reject Blankenship, and Morrissey’s campaign recent put out a robocall warning West Virginians that selecting the former coal baron will cement a win for Democrats in November.

But the Blankenship team isn’t worried about the attacks. “We have run hard from beginning to end,” campaign strategist Greg Thomas told Politico, “and we are encouraged by the desperation we are seeing from our opposition.”