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Don Blankenship to challenge ‘sore loser’ law

Accepts nomination of Constitution Party

PARKERSBURG — A candidate who lost the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate expects a legal challenge as the nominee of the West Virginia Constitution Party.

Don Blankenship announced on Monday he’s a member of the Constitution Party and accepted the party’s nomination for U.S. Senate for the November general election. Blankenship is the former CEO of Massey Energy who spent a year in federal prison for conspiracy to violate mine safety laws, a misdemeanor, over the Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 coal miners.

The legal challenge could be over the so-called sore loser laws in West Virginia, passed in House Bill 4434 this year, that says a losing candidate in the primary election can’t change their voter registration to a minor party or become unaffiliated to use the later filing deadlines to become a candidate on the general election ballot. HB 4434 becomes effective June 5.

A request for comment from Blankenship was sent to his campaign by email and was not immediately returned.

Besides the sore loser law, the code requires a procedure for Blankenship and the Constitution Party to follow to be placed on the ballot of the general election, Steve Connolly, chief legal counsel for the West Virginia Secretary of State, said. The Constitution Party is not one of the four recognized parties in West Virginia and would have to go to each county clerk in the state, 55, to start the process of obtaining signatures of qualified voters to petition Blankenship’s name to be placed on the ballot of the county, Connolly said.

The issue is open to speculation as the only documentation as of Monday was Blankenship’s change in voters registration from Republican to the Constitution Party, Connolly said.

The four recognized parties are the Democratic, Republican, Mountain and Libertarian.

Candidates from the Constitution Party and other parties are encouraged, but there “has to be a level playing field,” he said.

An email sent to the Constitution Party for comment also was not immediately returned.

Blankenship announced his candidacy in a press release Monday morning that included references to a challenge of his candidacy.

“Mr. Blankenship is confident the establishment will come against him with full force to ensure that an anti-swamper isn’t elected to the U.S. Senate,” the release said.

“…although the establishment will likely begin their efforts against us by mounting a legal challenge to my candidacy, we are confident that, if challenged, our legal position will prevail, absent a politically motivated decision by the courts,” Blankenship said.

Steve Adams, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said the pertinent West Virginia Code chapters are 3-5-7(d)(6) and 3-5-23. Chapter 3-5-7(d)(6) in part says a candidate can file a certificate of announcement provided they have not been “registered as a voter affiliated with any other political party for a period of 60 days before the date of filing the announcement.”

Nachama Soloveichik, a spokesman for the Patrick Morrisey campaign, said “Patrick Morrisey is the only candidate who can defeat Sen. Joe Manchin and who will stand with President Trump for West Virginians. We will comment on any ballot issues as they may arise.”

Morrisey won the Republican nomination in a six-person race over U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, Blankenship and Bo Copley, Tom Willis and Jack Newbrough. Morrisey faces incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin in November.

“We are excited to have Don Blankenship as our candidate for U.S. Senate,” Constitution Party Vice Chairman Phil Hudok said in the press release. “This will be a great opportunity to put the principles of our party on display and to elect someone who will represent the values of West Virginians instead of those of the D.C. establishment.”

President Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., got involved in the primary election and encouraged West Virginians to not vote for Blankenship and instead vote for either Morrisey or Jenkins. The president cited the situation in Alabama and Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore, who was accused of inappropriate sexual advances toward women and was openly supported by Trump.

“This time we won’t get surprised by the lying establishment. We were assured by White House political staff that they would not interfere in the primary election. Obviously, that turned out not to be true,” Blankenship said. “Now that we know that the establishment will lie and resort to anything else necessary to defeat me, we are better prepared than before.”

Blankenship said the political establishment is determined to keep the “most anti-establishment candidate in the nation” out of the Senate.

“Since the Fox News Debate when I regained the lead in the polls (following false ads against me by a Mitch McConnell-controlled SuperPAC) the press and the establishment have colluded and lied to convince the public that I am a moron, a bigot and a felon,” Blankenship said. “They even went so far as to lie about my chances against Sen. Joe Manchin in the general election.”

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