A former CEO of a coal company who once said he is “Trumpier than Trump” has launched a bid for Senate as a Democrat in West Virginia.
Don Blankenship, who previously ran for the Republican nomination for the seat in 2018 but lost, filed his candidacy Friday for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Joe Manchin (D), according to a filing on the West Virginia secretary of state office’s website.
After then-President Trump endorsed Blankenship’s two primary opponents for the 2018 race over him, Blankenship had responded in a social media post saying, “As some have said I am Trumpier than Trump, and this morning proves it.”
National Republicans pushed back against Blankenship’s candidacy in 2018 as the controversial former CEO was running on an anti-establishment track. Blankenship served a year in prison after being found guilty of conspiracy to violate mine safety regulations following an explosion at one of his coal mines that killed 29 workers.
He told local West Virginia-based outlet WV News in an interview that he switched his party affiliation to Democratic eight months ago or more. He argued that the GOP “violated their party” and pushed false stories about him during his initial Senate run.
“They put out stories that were false, but the most important thing to me is this drug epidemic in West Virginia is not being addressed by the Republican Party, and neither are the problems in the country,” Blankenship said.
He told the outlet that he is running for Senate again to help West Virginians realize that “our enemy is the government and politicians, and which party you’re in doesn’t really matter.”
“The government is American’s worst enemy, and they are in fact destroying America while we’re being led to believe that there’s a fight between the left and right going on, when in fact it’s the government destroying us,” he said.
The Hill has reached out to Blankenship for further comment.
Blankenship also ran for president in 2020 as the nominee for the right-wing Constitution Party.
With Manchin’s retirement, Republicans are seen as likely to pick up his seat in the November elections. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a former Democrat who switched his party affiliation in 2017, is the front-runner for the GOP nomination for the seat, but he is being opposed by Rep. Alex Mooney (R).