- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Outspoken ex-convict and self-described “American political prisoner” Don Blankenship, who led Massey Energy Co. during the infamous 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that claimed the lives of 29 coal miners, will run for Senate as a Republican, according to media reports.

Mr. Blankenship, who served one year in prison for conspiracy to violate federal mine safety laws, would be the third Republican to throw his hat in the ring in the party primary. The seat is currently held by Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who’s also a vocal coal champion.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, West Virginia Republican, and the state’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, also are gunning for the seat.

The news of Mr. Blankenship’s candidacy was first reported by Charleston’s WCHS Eyewitness News.

Mr. Blankenship has consistently denied that he was responsible for the explosion at Upper Big Branch, casting blame on the Mine Safety and Health Administration instead and alleging that a federal conspiracy aimed at taking down coal industry leaders led to his charges and subsequent conviction.

On his website, DonBlankenship.com, the coal titan dubbed himself an “American political prisoner” and said he had been “been falsely accused of causing the Upper Big Branch (UBB) tragedy: been falsely arrested: endured a trial where I faced thirty years in prison for made up charges, and been put in federal prison for a misdemeanor.”

“All Americans deserve a fair trial, and not one like I had,” he continues on his site.

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