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Don Blankenship hires Manchin-supporting lawyer in push to overturn ‘sore loser’ law
The Washington Examiner
By David Drucker
Don Blankenship, the Republican trying to sue his way onto the general election ballot in West Virginia, has enlisted a lawyer who is a longtime campaign contributor to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
Blankenship, having finished third in the Republican Senate primary in May, is barred from running as an independent or third party candidate in the fall by West Virginia’s “sore loser” law. So, the wealthy coal magnate is suing, revealing in a Facebook post that he hired to represent him Robert Bastress, a professor of constitutional law at West Virginia University College of Law.
Republican insiders, worried Blankenship could complicate their efforts to oust Manchin, are crying foul. In an attempt to discredit the provocateur, GOP operatives are pointing to Bastress’ history of donating to Manchin, even noting that the lawyer’s wife is a Democrat serving in the West Virginia legislature.
A review of Bastress’ political giving compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics shows a long history of contributing to Democrats and Democratic Party committees. Bastress, by no means a major donor, usually gives in increments of $250, $500 and $1,000. Over the years, he’s written checks to West Virginia Democrats like Manchin, now-retired Sen. Jay Rockefeller, now-retired Rep. Nick Rahall, and others.
Blankenship has deep pockets. He fully funding his failed primary campaign and has plenty of money to finance a lawsuit against the government. He sounded confident in a message posted on Facebook on Thursday:
“The West Virginia Legislature didn’t pass their so called “sore loser” law until after I was already a candidate in the Republican primary, and the bill did not become effective until June when I had already begun the process of running as a candidate for the Constitution Party in the fall. The West Virginia Supreme Court should reach the same conclusion as did the North Carolina Federal Judge, by reversing Secretary of State Mac Warner’s denial of my right to be on the fall ballot.”
If Blankenship’s lawsuit succeeds, he could complicate West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s campaign against Manchin in the midterm election. Manchin is a former governor who is not as popular as he once was, but still retains goodwill with voters.
Some Republicans worry that Blankenship and Morrisey would split the GOP vote, easing a path to re-election for the Democratic incumbent who is otherwise vulnerable because his state is firmly supportive of President Trump and has drifted further to the Right since he was first elected in 2010.
Blankenship, who could be out for revenge, might not care if he wins the general election as long as he blocks Morrisey from the winner’s stand.
Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., worked against Blankenship in the primary in a bid to boost either Morrisey or the second-place finisher in the primary, Rep. Evan Jenkins. They opposed Blankenship for, among other reasons, his conviction on charges of violating federal mine safety regulations while running a West Virginia coal company. He spent time in prison as part of his sentence.
In a state where coal is a major employer, and that has experienced major mining disasters, Republicans believed Blankenship would have handed the race to Manchin.