UPDATE: Former coal baron Blankenship sues media, claims defamation

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WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (WTAP) - Former coal baron Don Blankenship is suing several news outlets and media personalities, claiming he was defamed during his failed bid for a U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia.

Blankenship's suit was filed Thursday in Mingo County, West Virginia. It names The Associated Press among other large media companies.

Blankenship says news organizations waged a concerted plot to destroy him by erroneously labeling him as a convicted felon or saying he was imprisoned for manslaughter.

Blankenship is the former CEO of Massey Energy, which owned a mine where a 2010 explosion killed 29 workers. He spent a year in federal prison after being convicted of conspiring to break mine safety laws, a misdemeanor.

Blankenship is seeking $12 billion in damages.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATE: 8/29/2018

The West Virginia State Supreme Court has denied former coal CEO Don Blankenship's petition to get his name on the ballot in November's U.S. Senate race in West Virginia.

The court heard the last-chance bid Wednesday - Blankenship's appeal of a decision denying his third-party candidacy application.

Secretary of State Mac Warner had previously blocked Blankenship's bid to run as the Constitution Party's nominee, based on the state's "sore loser" law, which prohibits major-party primary candidates who lose from switching to a minor party.

Blankenship finished third in the Republican primary election in May.


UPDATE: 08/18/18

The West Virginia Republican Party is attempting to join the legal fight to keep former coal executive Don Blankenship off the ballot as a third-party candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that if the court grants intervention, attorneys can provide arguments for the party, along with arguments by the Secretary of State's office.

Blankenship filed a challenge with the state Supreme Court seeking to force Secretary of State Mac Warner to allow him onto the November ballot.

Warner denied Blankenship's candidacy application to join the ballot with the Constitution Party. Warner cited the state's "sour grapes" law following Blankenship's loss in the Republican Senate primary. Warner's office maintains the law prevents candidates who lose in a major party primary from running in the general election with a minor party.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATE: 7/26/2018, 12:26 P.M.

The West Virginia Secretary of State has denied Don Blankenship's request to run for U.S. Senate in the general election.

Secretary of State Mac Warner says that he will not approve the candidacy application filed by Don Blankenship, according to a news release. Warner notified Blankenship Thursday morning by letter of his decision.

The former coal operator filed Tuesday to run for U.S. Senate in the Constitution Party. Blankenship ran as a Republican in the May primary and lost to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

"According to the plain language of the law, which controls my decision, a candidate who loses the Primary Election cannot use the nomination-certificate process to run another campaign in the General Election. Any other decision would be contrary to the law," Warner said.

Blankenship has indicated he would appeal Warner's decision if he was ruled ineligible to run.

A former Massey Energy CEO, Blankenship spent a year in federal prison for violating safety regulations in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 miners.

You can read Warner's entire letter to Blankenship in the "Related Documents" section of this story.


UPDATE: 7/24/2018, 12:51 P.M.

Former coal executive Don Blankenship says he will file paperwork on Tuesday to run in West Virginia's U.S. Senate race as the Constitution Party's nominee.

Blankenship's campaign announced he would file the paperwork Tuesday, even though he doesn't expect it to be certified.

He says he'll "vigorously challenge" any denial.

It's unclear if the filing would violate West Virginia's "sore loser" law, which prohibits candidates affiliated with a major party who lose in a primary from changing their registration to a minor party.

Blankenship finished a distant third in the republican primary.

He wants to join Republican Patrick Morrisey and incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on the November ballot.

A former Massey Energy CEO, Blankenship spent a year in federal prison for violating safety regulations in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 miners.


UPDATE: 6/6/2018 5:45 P.M.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A petition drive has started to place convicted former coal executive Don Blankenship on the West Virginia general election ballot in the U.S. Senate race as the Constitution Party's nominee.

Blankenship's campaign announced the petition drive Wednesday.

To get him on the ballot, at least 4,537 signatures must be collected and submitted to the secretary of state by Aug. 1.

Blankenship finished a distant third in the Republican primary on May 8. He wants to join Republican nominee Patrick Morrisey and incumbent Democratic Sen. Manchin on the ballot in November.

A former Massey Energy CEO, Blankenship spent a year in federal prison for violating safety regulations in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 miners.


5/22/2018, 4:15 P.M.

A professor says if Don Blankenship is successful in making the U.S. Senate campaign a three-way race in West Virginia this fall, it "throws everything into uncertainty."

West Virginia Wesleyan College political history professor Robert Rupp says Blankenship has a self-funded candidacy and plenty of motivation as he tries to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Yet Rupp says a Blankenship candidacy could help Manchin by potentially taking conservative Republican votes away from GOP candidate Patrick Morrisey.

Blankenship finished third in the Republican primary won by Morrisey earlier this month. Blankenship says he'll try to continue his bid as a candidate for the Constitution Party.

Rupp says Blankenship "was not going to yield being the center of attention in West Virginia politics just because he only got 20 percent" of the primary vote.


UPDATE: 5/22/2018, 3:45 P.M.

A law professor says West Virginia's "sour grapes" law could have different interpretations for the third-party candidacy of convicted ex-coal baron Don Blankenship.

West Virginia University constitutional law professor Robert Bastress says the state law in question "is ambiguous." The law pertains to candidates who lose in a primary and choose to run in the general election with another political party.

Bastress says the law is "subject to an interpretation which would say he could do it and one that says he could not."

That interpretation aside, in order to get Blankenship on the ballot, the Constitution Party would be required to obtain enough signatures equal to at least 1 percent of all votes cast in the most recent U.S. Senate race. That was in 2014, when 453,659 ballots were cast.

The signatures must be submitted to the secretary of state by Aug. 1.


UPDATE: 5/22/2018, 12:45 P.M.

The West Virginia secretary of state's legal counsel says it's too early to focus on whether the third-party candidacy of convicted ex-coal baron Don Blankenship is legal.

Steve Connolly says the only notice the secretary of state's office has received is Blankenship switching from the Republican to the Constitution Party.

Connelly says Blankenship hasn't filed a certificate of nomination with the Constitution Party. When he does, Connelly says "then we'll come to a decision. As of right now, we don't have anything in front of us to decide."

Earlier this year, the state Legislature strengthened state code by specifying candidates who fail to win their party's primary cannot become a candidate for the same office through another party's nomination or certificate process. That change is effective June 5.


UPDATE: 5/21/2018, 5:43 P.M.

The West Virginia secretary of state's office has said convicted ex-coal baron Don Blankenship wouldn't be permitted to run in the general election for U.S. Senate after losing the Republican primary.

The comments came before Monday's announcement that Blankenship would run as a third-party candidate, with the Constitution Party.

Mike Queen is communications director for Secretary of State Mac Warner. Queen made the remarks for a story Saturday in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Queen says there's no specific language code spelling out a "sore loser" law. He says his office would look to lawmakers' "intent."

He says: "The Secretary's position is that Mr. Blankenship is not permitted to run again in the general election for the United States Senate. If Mr. Blankenship pursues the matter, he will most likely have to bring a legal action to force the Secretary to approve his candidacy."

On Monday, the office referred questions to its lawyer, who didn't immediately respond to questions.


ORIGINAL STORY: 5/21/2018

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is back in the mix in the race for West Virginia's U.S. Senate seat in November.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Patrick Morrisey, who won' his party's primary earlier this month, already are on the November ballot.

Blankenship, who finished third in May's Republican primary behind Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins, announced Monday morning that he has accepted the nomination to represent West Virginia's Constitution Party.

In a news release, Blankenship said he's honored to represent the Constitution Party in November.

He says his personal views and the views of the majority of West Virginians are significantly aligned with the party’s platform.

The Constitution Party's goal is to restore American government behavior to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

“It is especially appropriate for me to be nominated by the Constitution Party given its staunch and uncompromising commitment to upholding the United States Constitution," Blankenship said. "My First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment rights were violated when I was falsely charged and politically imprisoned following the unfortunate mining accident at Upper Big Branch—a tragedy wholly caused by the actions of the establishment and the federal government.

"It is no surprise then that the establishment has worked so hard to cover-up the truth. In fact, were it not for the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a jury trial the Obama Department of Justice would have tyrannically and maliciously imprisoned me for life.”

Phil Hudok, vice-chairman of the Constitution Party of West Virginia, said, “We are excited to have Don Blankenship as our candidate for U.S. Senate. 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 DC establishment.”

Blankenship was the CEO of Massey Energy when 29 miners were killed in a explosion the Upper Big Branch coal mine in southern West Virginia in April 2010.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2014 for conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards and conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials.

He was found guilty of one misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards, and in April 2016 he was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $250,000.

He was released from prison in May 2017.



 
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