Blankenship

CHARLESTON -- Don Blankenship is taking his message to the citizens of West Virginia again, this time hoping to make wholesale changes to the state Legislature.

Blankenship, president of Massey Energy, has targeted about three dozen state legislators up for re-election in this fall's general election. He won't publicly name the lawmakers on his list, but he already has started to get his message out.

In recent days, he's appeared on statewide radio and television networks. He has started a Web site -- www.andforthesakeofthekids.com -- to get his message out. He's working on direct mail pieces. And he's organized a network of volunteers doing whatever it takes -- going door-to-door, making phone calls, writing letters, putting up yard signs -- to preach his gospel.

Last weekend, about 30 of the volunteers were pounding the pavement in Beckley, Charleston and Huntington.

"Almost every district has a candidate in it that we're after," Blankenship said Tuesday. "The list (of targeted legislators) will change from time to time based on a number of things. So I don't see the advantages to naming names right now."

Blankenship said he chose the legislators based on several votes.

Primarily, Blankenship opposed a bill allowing drunken drivers to keep their licenses if they plead no contest. He supported a bill that would have limited marriage to a man and a woman, and he backed a measure to notify parents if a daughter is seeking an abortion. And he's been a long-time proponent of eliminating the state sales tax on food.

A prominent businessman, Blankenship said these quality-of-life measures would make the state more attractive to outside business.

"I think that the whole thing fits together," he said. "If we don't create a strong economy, we won't get out of being the worst in the nation. Right now, they're taxing business and people to death to keep the state going. They need to create a friendlier environment, and that includes spreading the taxes over bigger base. They could go a long way toward that by addressing these social issues."

Blankenship has said he hopes his push could change the face of the state Legislature, including wrestling control of the House of Delegates from the Democrats for the first time in decades.

"It's difficult to say," Blankenship, a Mingo County native, said about his lofty hopes. "I'm not going to pull a Joe Namath and guarantee a victory. The messages we are trying to get out are good, and we think people will agree once they hear them."

In 2004, Blankenship financed "And For The Sake Of The Kids," a non-profit that helped Republican Brent Benjamin defeat incumbent Warren McGraw for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

He said this year's push has similarities to the 2004 drive. But he also said there are some marked differences.

"This is a different type of campaign," Blankenship said. "They're more local. It's more grassroots in nature. That can make it more difficult, but perhaps more successful.

"It had been over 80 years since a Republican was elected to West Virginia Supreme Court. This isn't any different than many challenges I've been involved in."

Blankenship also says he'll spend whatever it takes to get his message to the citizens of West Virginia.

"I think that we'll run out of needs before I run out of money," he said. "We'll just sort of do what we need to do and do it as cost-effectively as we can. But I don't want it to fall a dollar short after we go that far.

"I feel good about doing it whether it succeeds or not. I guess we'll know in November."

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