CHARLESTON – The war of words between the campaigns of two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate continues to escalate.

On Oct. 24, the Senate campaign for U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins issued a press release asking if West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey will stand with President Trump as he declares the opioid crisis a national emergency or “will he stand with the pill-pushers” from the pharmaceutical industry that has contributed more than $100,000 to his campaign.

Jenkins’ campaign also called Morrisey “a career drug lobbyist” whose “deep ties to the opioid crisis were also scrutinized by CBS in 2016.”

“Time and again, Morrisey has exchanged favors for cash from the companies that helped fuel the opioid crisis as a D.C. lobbyist and a politician,” the Jenkins press release stated. “A growing number of West Virginia voters know this – hence why he struggled to garner even a bare majority of the vote for his re-election last year.

“But the huge investment Big Pharma continues to make in Patrick Morrisey indicates he’ll just keep doing what he did as a lobbyist for the drug distributors – line his pockets with pill-pushing profits, no matter how many lives have been lost.”

The Jenkins press release also included excerpts from three newspaper stories. One detailed how Morrisey was a lobbyist for a national drug distribution trade association that generated $250,000 for his Washington, D.C., law firm over 16 months before he became AG and was overseeing lawsuits against those drug companies. Another story said Morrisey fought against state agencies’ requests to sue McKesson, which also is a member of that trade group. A third story detailed how Morrisey gave “specific instructions” for the office’s lawsuits against the drug companies while one of them (Cardinal Health) was paying Morrisey’s wife as a lobbyist in Washington. Morrisey has denied that claim.

Morrisey’s campaign punched back, saying Jenkins helped fuel the opioid crisis with a vote for “the now infamous Marino bill” while Morrisey tackled the opioid crisis in West Virginia as AG.

“If flip-flopping and hypocrisy were Olympic sports, Evan Jenkins would take home the gold medal,” Morrisey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. “Jenkins has changed his position on a slew of important issues, and then tries to cover up his record by throwing mud.

“Whether it’s his support for abortion, Obamacare, Hillary Clinton, or now, the Marino bill that contributed to the opioid crisis, voters aren’t buying it. It’s time for liberal Evan Jenkins to own up to his record.”

Jenkins' campaign manager responded to that. 

“The last 48 hours tells you all you need to know," Andy Seré told The West Virginia Record. "While Evan Jenkins was introducing The Fentanyl and Heroin Task Force Act to help combat the drug crisis, Patrick Morrisey was filing a fundraising report showing over $100,000 in campaign contributions from Big Pharma and the pain pill lobby. 

"The report also shows he wrote a big check to his own campaign … so how’d he get so rich? Lobbying in the D.C. Swamp for the opioid industry at the same time they were shipping obscene amounts of poison into West Virginia communities. He should be ashamed."

Soloveichik said Morrisey has been praised for his “tireless work on substance abuse in West Virginia,” and she included links to several newspaper stories. “As Attorney General, Morrisey and his office have launched an aggressive campaign against substance abuse up and down the pharmaceutical supply chain – from manufacturers to wholesalers, to pharmacies, to doctors.”

In addition to Morrisey and Jenkins, former coal miner Bo Copley has announced plans to run as Republicans for the Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat Joe Manchin for the 2018 election. Manchin will face primary competition from environmental activist Paula Jean Swearengin, who already has been endorsed by the Brand New Congress political action committee formed by former staff members and supporters of Bernie Sanders. Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship also has hinted as running as a Republican or an Independent.

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