Ex-coal CEO to hold town meeting in US Senate candidacy

FILE - In a Wednesday, April 6, 2016, file photo, former Massey CEO Don Blankenship is escorted by Homeland Security officers from the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse in Charleston, W. Va. Blankenship has asked President Donald Trump to resist attempts in Congress to enhance criminal penalties for coal executives who violate mine safety and health standards. Blankenship, who recently was freed from federal prison, also asked the president in a letter Tuesday, May 16, 2017, to re-examine a federal investigation into the nation's worst coal mining disaster in four decades. (F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP, File)

LOGAN, W.Va. (AP) — A former coal company CEO who went to prison is hosting a town hall meeting for voters next week as he revs up his U.S. Senate candidacy.
Ex-Massey Energy boss Don Blankenship’s campaign said in a news release Wednesday the meeting will be Jan. 18 at the Chief Logan Lodge, Hotel and Conference Center in Logan.
Blankenship will face U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the May 8 GOP primary. Democrat Joe Manchin is seeking re-election.
“I am looking forward to hearing from voters in the greater Logan area and to explaining why I am the best candidate for U.S. Senate,” Blankenship said in the statement.
Blankenship said President Donald Trump “needs more than just another vote. He needs input as to how West Virginia can improve its citizens’ quality of life.”
The 67-year-old Blankenship was released from a federal prison in California last year after serving a one-year term related to the deadliest U.S. mine explosion in four decades. He is serving one year of supervised release scheduled to end on May 9 — one day after the primary.
Blankenship received approval last August to have his supervised release transferred to federal officials in Nevada, where he has a home in Las Vegas.
Blankenship was sentenced in 2016 for a misdemeanor conviction of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine in southern West Virginia, where 29 workers died in a 2010 explosion.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Blankenship’s bid to appeal. He has insisted he’s innocent, and that natural gas and not methane gas and excess coal dust caused the explosion. He has blamed Manchin for helping create the public sentiment against him and challenged the senator to a debate.