West Virginia Supreme Court rejects coal-mine convict Don Blankenship's bid to run on third-party line for Senate; possible blow to Sen. Joe Manchin

  • The West Virginia Supreme Court rejects an effort by failed Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship to run on a third-party line.
  • The decision could hurt incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's re-election bid this fall.
  • Blankenship, who served a year in prison after being convicted of conspiring to violate mine safety laws, had sought to run as a candidate of the Constitution Party after losing the Republican primary to Patrick Morrisey.
U.S. Senate candidate Don Blankenship speaks to his supporters during the primary election in Charleston, West Virginia, May 8, 2018.
Lexi Browning | Reuters
U.S. Senate candidate Don Blankenship speaks to his supporters during the primary election in Charleston, West Virginia, May 8, 2018.

Republicans are looking to expand their majority in the Senate this fall, and they might have just gotten a big boost from a state court.

The West Virginia Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an effort by failed Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship to run on a third-party ballot line, a decision that could hurt incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's re-election bid this fall.

Blankenship, a former coal baron who served a year in prison after being convicted in 2015 of conspiring to violate mine safety laws, had sought to run as a candidate of the Constitution Party. He lost the Republican primary to Patrick Morrisey earlier this year.

But under West Virginia's "sore-loser" law, a candidate who fails to win one major party's primary cannot then run as another party's candidate for the seat that same election cycle.

If he had been allowed to run on the Constitution Party line, Blankenship was expected to cut into Morrisey's support, helping Manchin.

President Donald Trump, who won West Virginia by about 40 percentage points in 2016, has endorsed Morrisey.

Morrisey, in his own statement reacting to the high-court order, said, "No more distractions to hide lying liberal Joe Manchin's record of supporting pro-abortion policies, gun control, and Hillary Clinton's campaign against coal miners."

During his failed campaign for the GOP nomination, Blankenship had railed against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican from Kentucky, whom he referred to as "Cocaine Mitch."

The slur was related to the fact that the family of McConnell's wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, owns a shipping company, and one of its boats was once discovered in Colombia to have cocaine stashed aboard. McConnell, Chao and the company were never accused of knowing about the drugs.

Blankenship had also called Chao's father a "wealthy Chinaperson."

After Blankeship's candidacy bombed in May's primary, McConnell's campaign team snarkily tweeted a picture of him smiling, surrounded by what appeared to be cocaine powder.

The same imagery is used by the Netflix show "Narcos,' which is about the Colombian drug trade.