Blankenship case to be heard Wednesday

CHARLESTON — The state’s highest court will hear a case that could decide if voters get to choose an additional candidate for U.S. Senate.

The West Virginia Supreme Court announced Thursday it will hear arguments at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Constitution Party candidate Don Blankenship’s attempt to get on the Nov. 6 ballot for the Senate.

Blankenship filed a petition Aug. 9 asking the court to order Secretary of State Mac Warner to allow Blankenship on the November ballot as a Constitution Party candidate.

Chief Justice Margaret Workman appointed 24th District Circuit Judge Darrell Pratt and 19th Judicial Circuit Judge Alan Moats to hear the case, along with Workman, Justice Beth Walker and Acting Justice Paul Farrell. Pratt serves in Wayne County and Pratt’s circuit includes Barbour and Taylor counties.

If the court approves Blankenship’s petition, the court could order the Secretary of State’s office to place Blankenship on the ballot. Sen. Joe Manchin, the incumbent Democrat, Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Libertarian Party candidate Rusty Hollen are listed as candidates for the office.

Blankenship’s attorney, Bob Bastress, makes the case that the Secretary of State misinterpreted the state’s “Sore Loser” law, which prevents candidates who lost a major party primary from running as an affiliated or minor party candidate in the general election.

It also says the law is being applied retroactively to his campaign. The law was strengthened by the West Virginia Legislature in March and went into effect June 5.

Attorney Marc Williams is representing the Secretary of State’s Office after Morrisey recused himself. In a response to the petition, Williams said that it’s not appropriate for Blankenship to lose the May primary, then try to get on the November ballot using an “less rigorous” standard.

“Under current and prior West Virginia law, a losing primary candidate, like Blankenship, is not afforded a second chance to appear on a general election ballot for the same position using the nomination-certificate process,” Williams wrote. “…The state prohibits these candidates from losing a primary election and then using the easier nomination-certificate process in order to protect its interest in preventing factionalism and ensuring that third party candidates are bona fide.”

Blankenship ran as a Republican in the May primary, coming in third. He lost to Morrisey, who won with 34.9 percent of the vote. Morrisey was followed by U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins of Cabell County with 29.21 percent and Blankenship with 19.97 percent.

The Constitution Party nominated Blankenship on May 19, who officially switched his voter registration from Republican Party to Constitution Party on May 21. The Secretary of State’s Office rejected Blankenship’s certificate of candidacy on July 27 after Blankenship submitted 12,767 signatures to get on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The West Virginia Republican Party filed a motion to intervene Aug. 14. Represented by J. Mark Adkins and Elbert Lin, the former solicitor general under Morrisey, the party argued that it has a right to intervene in the case.

“If Mr. Blankenship prevails in his lawsuit, his do-over candidacy will undermine in numerous ways the West Virginia Republican Party’s statutory and constitutional rights to pick its nominee for United States Senate,” according to the filing. “It will lead to party splintering in this election and future ones and to the destabilizing effects that come with excessive factionalism.”

Blankenship took to Facebook Wednesday to criticize the Republican Party.

“The Republican Party in West Virginia is trying to stop the very things they purport to support,” Blankenship said. “Blindly supporting any person or any organization will lead to that organizations demise.”

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