CHARLESTON, W.Va. – On the final day of a chaotic primary campaign, a radio announcement from Don Blankenship, Republican hopeful for Senate in West Virginia, does not seek to deny or explain away charges leveled against him by his own party’s establishment.
He’s embracing those attacks instead.
“They are calling me a bigot, a moron, a despicable character and mentally ill,” Blankenship says in the ad. “But even if all of this is true, I will do a better job than they have done.”
The former coal baron has weathered significant criticism in the closing days of his campaign for his use of the phrase “China person” to describe the father of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and “China people” when describing those he thinks have benefitted from McConnell’s policies.
But Blankenship insists in the new advertisement that his concerns about China are driven by their economic strength, and not their citizens.
“They seem not to realize that China is a country, not a race,” Blankenship says about what he calls “the fake news.” “The establishment has given millions of our jobs to ‘China people’ and left many ‘West Virginia people’ to fend for themselves.”
Last week, in a nationally televised debate on Fox News, Blankenship further explained the origins of ‘China person.”
“I’m an ‘American person’,” Blankenship said on stage in Morgantown last Tuesday. “I don’t see this insinuation by the press that there’s something racist about saying a ‘China person.’”
Blankenship is competing with Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va. and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, among others, for a chance to challenge incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. in November’s midterm election.
Jenkins was upbeat Tuesday morning after he cast his ballot.
“I’m encouraged I feel great today,” Jenkins told Fox News. “There’s always a little bit of nervousness but that’s what this election process is all about. You just put so much into it. And today’s the day, it’s the day we’ve been looking forward to, so it’s exciting.”
President Trump, who beat Hillary Clinton by 42 points in West Virginia in 2016, tweeted on Monday that Republicans in the state should withhold support from Blankenship, out of concern that he cannot mount a successful challenge to Manchin.
Morrisey released a digital campaign ad on Monday comparing his “proven, conservative” credentials with that of his opponent.
“Patrick Morrisey is a proven conservative fighter, protecting coal jobs, pro-life, protecting our Second Amendment,” the ad said. “A convicted criminal or a proven conservative: That's your choice.”
The 68-year old Blankenship recently served a year in prison on a misdemeanor conviction for conspiracy to violate mine safety standards.
His probation ends on Wednesday.
Fox News multimedia reporter Emilie Ikeda contributed to this report.