Blankenship optimistic as election nears

By Chris Dickerson | Nov 3, 2006


CHARLESTON -- Heading into the final weekend of the election campaign, Don Blankenship said his political action group will be working even harder to get the word out about which candidates it wants to see win and lose.

Don Blankenship, president of Massey Energy, revived his And For The Sake Of The Kids political action group for this year's election after it helped Republican Brent Benjamin defeat incumbent Warren McGraw for a seat on the state Supreme Court in 2004.

This time around, the group took aim at House of Delegates races across the state, spending upwards of $3 million in an effort to oust several Democratic incumbents.

From July to September, for example, Blankenship spent nearly $300,000 on those races, accounting for nearly half of the $620,000 raised by the candidates during those three months, according to the Charleston Daily Mail. The political group also has spent money on signs, billboards and ads on issues, promoting those candidates and spotlighting the voting records of the targeted incumbents.

The entire election effort has went "pretty much as expected," Blankenship said Thursday in responding to questions via an e-mail. "We started off anticipating we would have to be flexible on our plan and have been. However, there have been no real surprises."

Since the summer, Blankenship and his group have been sending direct mail pieces, organizing a network of volunteers, updating its Web site (, producing various forms of advertising and sending out lots of press releases to get the word out.

Blankenship said he is optimistic about the group's efforts, predicting the final numbers in the House to much closer to 50-50 in terms of Democrats and Republicans. Currently, the House has 68 Democrats and 32 Republicans.

Blankenship said he expects the election results to change that to anywhere between a Democratic majority of 56 to a Republican majority of 53.

While focusing the group's efforts on about two dozen districts across the state, there are a few – namely those in Kanawha and Logan counties -- that Blankenship said he'll be looking at more closely on election night.

"Kanawha has a lot of delegates at stake, and Logan may signal whether conservative politics is going (to play well) south," he said. "Also Wyoming County."

For the last few days of the campaign, Blankenship said to expect to hear plenty from And For The Sake Of The Kids.

The group will be running "lots of ads and being very responsive to any surprises from the other sides," he said.

On other topics, Blankenship didn't have a favorable response to Gov. Joe Manchin's tax plan that was introduced earlier this week. But he did like the state Supreme Court's vote to skip over Justice Larry Starcher's turn in the rotation to be Chief Justice next year.

On Monday, Manchin unveiled a tax reform plan that, in part, would shave 1 percent off the state food tax, double the cigarette tax, eliminate or reduce the personal income tax for families living below the federal poverty line and cut the state's corporate net income tax and franchise tax.

The plan will be introduced as legislation at a Nov. 9 special session.

Blankenship, who long has called for the elimination of the food tax, called Manchin's plan "an effort to buy votes and build political favor."

As for the Supreme Court's 3-2 vote to pass over Starcher as Chief Justice in 2007, Blankenship called it a good decision.

"It shows the court won't tolerate inappropriate judicial behavior," he said.

Most recently, Starcher was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "It makes me want to puke to see massive amounts of out-of-state money come in and buy a seat on our court. ... Now we have one justice who was bought by Don Blankenship." That is a reference to Benjamin's victory in 2004.

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