Trump urges Republicans to reject ex-coal exec in West Virginia U.S. Senate race

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday waded into the U.S. Senate race in West Virginia, urging Republicans to reject former coal executive Don Blankenship and instead vote for either U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins or state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Blankenship served time in prison for safety violations connected to a 2010 disaster that killed 29 miners and is seen as the weakest of the three candidates in the upcoming primary. The winner would take on Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in November.

Blankenship, the former chief executive officer of coal company Massey Energy, has centered his candidacy around attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, accusing him of undermining Trump, and is running television ads targeting the Taiwanese heritage of McConnell’s wife, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Republicans are seeking to maintain control of Congress in the November midterm elections in what is increasingly being seen as a referendum on Trump’s tenure in the White House.

The West Virginia race is one of several primary contests where Republicans are wrestling over their allegiance to Trump.

“To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State … No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!” Trump wrote on Twitter.