Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is making a bid to represent West Virginia in the Senate.
Blankenship, who ran Massey until shortly after the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 workers, filed Friday to run as a Democrat for the seat being vacated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D), state records show.
Blankenship spent almost a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards, a charge that stemmed from the investigation into the 2010 disaster.
He previously ran for the same seat as a Republican in 2018, losing the primary to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who lost to Manchin.
Blankenship made numerous false claims about then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) during that campaign and labeled him â€śCocaine Mitch,â€ť a name McConnell and his allies sought to reclaim.
Blankenship was the Constitution Partyâ€™s nominee in the 2020 presidential election.
His campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Speaking to reporters after filing at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston, Blankenship said he likely wouldnâ€™t caucus with Democrats if elected, but he does hope to shake up the party.
â€śI think the Democratic Party needs some leadership. You know, you look at what theyâ€™re doing, the policies they have are crazy. Theyâ€™re never going to participate in the things that are needed to correct the country, so Iâ€™m going to try to pull them out of that doldrum and get them to think about real issues,â€ť he said, .
â€śI will probably form my own caucus, if I win, called the America First caucus because neither the Republicans under McConnell nor the Democrats under Schumer are going to make the country better,â€ť he continued, referring to current Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The state Democratic Party rejected Blankenshipâ€™s candidacy.
â€śSince getting out of prison Don has been struggling to find a way to be relevant. This sad gimmick is just his latest effort to find a political lifeline,â€ť Mike Pushkin, the state party chair, said in a statement.
â€śThe West Virginia Democratic Party remains committed to supporting candidates who truly represent Democratic values and who will work to improve the quality of life for all West Virginians,â€ť Pushkin said.
Manchin in November announced that he wouldnâ€™t run and would leave the Senate after his term ends in January 2025. He has publicly floated running for president.
Beyond Blankenship, the Democratic primary includes Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott and political organizer Zachary Shrewsbury.
Gov. Jim Justice, the leading Republican candidate and a former Democrat, is favored to win the GOP primary and the general election, flipping a seat in the closely divided Senate. He faces Rep. Alex Mooney in the primary.