West Virginia Senate hopeful Don Blankenship is intensifying his offensive against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him “Cocaine Mitch” in a new TV ad released just over a week until the Republican primary.
“One of my goals as U.S. Senator will be to ditch Cocaine Mitch,” Blankenship says toward the end of the spot, which comes as polls show the coal baron falling behind his more mainstream opponents.
Blankenship, who spent a year in prison following the 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 workers, offers no context for the jab. But he may be referring to a 2014 report in the liberal Nation magazine that drugs were once found aboard a shipping vessel owned by the family of McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Blankenship has gone after McConnell in startlingly personal ways. During a recent interview with POLITICO, Blankenship said McConnell “has a lot of connections in China,” and that Chao is “from China, so we have to be really concerned that we are in truth” putting America’s interests first.
A McConnell representative did not respond to a request for comment.
With the May 8 primary fast approaching, Blankenship has launched a slash-and-burn campaign targeting the Senate GOP leader. Blankenship’s offensive comes as polls show him falling behind GOP Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the primary.
McConnell’s political operation has moved aggressively to block Blankenship’s path. Operatives close to the majority leader, convinced that Blankenship would lose to Democrat Joe Manchin in the November general election, have launched a super PAC that has spent around $1.3 million on TV ads attacking the coal baron.
One ad from Mountain Families PAC describes Blankenship as a “convicted criminal,” who lived a lavish lifestyle while ignoring mine safety laws.
“Don Blankenship was about the money,” the spot concludes. “West Virginia families paid the price.”