The Don Blankenship comeback tour has come to a screeching halt. The West Virginia Republican and former coal baron, who was running for US Senate less than a year after completing a federal prison sentence, finished a distant third in Tuesday’s Republican primary. He conceded while the race between his opponent, Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, was still too close to call. Morrisey was eventually declared the winner; he’ll face incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin in a contest that could decide control of the Senate.
Blankenship spent much of his campaign attempting to re-litigate the event for which he is now infamous—the 2010 explosion at his company’s Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 miners—and his subsequent conviction for conspiring to commit federal mine safety violations. In the Trump era, he found a sympathetic audience by presenting himself as a “political prisoner” of President Barack Obama’s Justice Department:
Blankenship’s Republican opponents never really challenged him on his alternative history, and tellingly, neither did President Donald Trump when he told voters on Monday to support someone else. But after Roy Moore’s collapse in Alabama last December, party leaders didn’t want to deal with Blankenship’s baggage. Evidently, voters didn’t either.
The bad news for Blankenship is he’s not going to be a senator. The good news is that his probation ends tomorrow.