West Virginia has quickly become Bright Red. President Trump may be more popular there than in any other state.
West Virginia still has one Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin. However, he is up for reelection this year and considered quite vulnerable.
Three main Republicans are vying for the right to take on Manchin. They are Rep. Evan Jenkins, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and former coal executive Don Blankenship.
Each has at least one problem. Jenkins is an establishment Republican in an anti-establishment state (though he was the first of the three to endorse candidate Trump). Moreover, he used to be a Democrat.
Morrisey is a former Washington lobbyist. He lobbied for the pharmaceutical industry in a state hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic.
Blankenship has the biggest problem, I think. He was convicted of conspiracy to violate mine safety standards following a mining disaster that killed 29 people. He claims this was a “fake prosecution.” However, the year he spent in prison was real.
Blankenship is a nasty piece of work. Campaigning as an outsider who will reject the Washington GOP establishment if elected, he refers to the Senate Majority Leader as cocaine Mitch. Apparently, the label is based on accusations of drug smuggling on Chinese ships associated with the family of McConnell’s wife.
Fortunately, Blankenship appears to be mired in third place. In last night’s debate, Jenkins and Morrisey concentrated their fire on each other, a good sign that their polling shows Blankenship to be the least likely to win.
Jenkins pushed hard on Morrisey’s lobbying for pharmaceutical companies. He went so far as to claim that Morrisey is a hindrance to solving the opioid problem in West Virginia. Jenkins stated:
If you want to see what the problem is, it is the pill-pushers and Patrick Morrisey is representing those people for years and made millions.
Interesting use of the present tense against the current Attorney General.
As I understand it, Morrisey lobbied for pharmaceutical companies, but never on the opioid issue. Morrisey’s wife lobbies for pharmaceutical companies, and seems to do so more heavily than the candidate did. However, I’ve seen no indication that she was involved with opioid issues either.
As West Virginia’s attorney general, Morrisey has sued the federal Drug Enforcement Administration for not doing enough to stop the flow of opioids into the state. He has also reached settlements with drug distributors worth a cumulative $47 million, after lawsuits were filed by his predecessor as attorney general. In addition, he has worked to involve faith leaders in fighting the state’s drug problem.
Thus, Jenkins’ claim that Morrisey is a hindrance to addressing the opioid crisis seems quite unfair.
Looking at the big picture, I’d say Morrisey is the most genuinely conservative of the three candidates. He successfully sued the Obama EPA and won in the U.S. Supreme Court. He was also successful in blocking Obama’s executive amnesty. In addition, he initiated passage of a state Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Given that record, it’s not surprising that he has the endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz, among other Senate conservatives.
The primary will be held this coming Tuesday. Polling suggests a close race between Jenkins and Morrisey.
Either should have a decent shot at defeating Manchin, especially if the president involves himself. However, Manchin, with his history of great success in statewide races and his attempts at times to distance himself from Trump, certainly cannot be written off.