A former coal executive who served a year in prison related to a 2010 mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 people is now denying claims of racism as he seeks a Senate seat in the state. In a new ad, Republican Don Blankenship claims "swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people," reports Politico. "While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars," Blankenship continues, apparently referencing the Senate majority leader's wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose parents moved to the US from Taiwan 60 years ago, per CNN. Blankenship defended the ad Thursday, telling Roll Call, "We're confused on our staff as to how it can be racist when there's no mention of a race. Races are Negro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian."
The attack comes as a McConnell-linked super PAC has branded Blankenship a "convicted criminal" and hypocrite ahead of the May 8 primary. Blankenship is not running against McConnell, who represents Kentucky, but he's hoping to score points by running against the DC "swamp." Blankenship trails two mainstream GOP opponents, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins, in the polls. McConnell and other Republican leaders hope Blankenship loses because they fear it would kill the party's chance of defeating Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin in November, reports the New York Times. The paper notes Blankenship's attacks on McConnell are surprising since he once said he'd move to China, where his fiancee is from. "This clown is a walking talking case study for the limitation of a prison's ability to rehabilitate," says a McConnell adviser.