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Don Blankenship has signatures to rejoin race for U.S. Senate

MARTINSBURG — A former West Virginia coal CEO says he’s ready to get back into the West Virgnia Senate race.

Don Blankenship said he has collected the requisite number of petition signatures and will be filing with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office in the next two weeks.

Blankenship was defeated in May in the Republican primary by state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Blankenship later accepted the Constitution Party nomination on May 22.

“We have submitted more than the required petition signatures to the Secretary of State,” Blankenship said in an email July 13.

Collecting petition signatures is one of the obligatory hoops Blankenship needed to jump through to get back in the U.S. Senate race.

It is still not clear whether Blankenship’s proposed candidacy change violates West Virginia’s “sore loser” law that restricts a candidate from accepting a political party’s nomination after having already lost in a primary.

According to a guide book listed on the West Virginia Secretary of State website, “candidates affiliated with a recognized political party who run for election in a primary election and who lose the nomination cannot change her or his voter registration to a minor party organization/unaffiliated candidate to take advantage of the later filing deadlines and have their name on the subsequent general election ballot.”

A spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of State said the office cannot rule on Blankenship’s candidacy until he files all the necessary nomination and candidacy paperwork, including more than 6,000 signatures. He has until Aug.1 to file.

Darrell Shull, field representative for the SOS, confirmed Blankenship has officially switched his party affiliation to the Constitution Party.

“Until we have paperwork, there is no action (on his candidacy) that we can take,” Shull said. “If he submits nomination and candidacy papers, then we would have to make a decision whether to validate or invalidate his candidacy.

“Once Mr, Blankenship files we will be able to review and take action as appropriate,” Shull said.

Blankenship, a former executive of Massey Energy, spent one year in federal prison for violating mine regulations in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 miners.

At the time of his party change announcement, Blankenship said the Constitution Party’s platform is more aligned with his own personal political views, according to a release issued at the time of his candidate re-entry announcement.

“I find that my personal views and the views of the majority of West Virginians are significantly aligned with the Constitution Party’s platform,” Blankenship said. “The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American government behavior to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.”

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