Blankenship compares McConnell to 'the Russians' for 'interfering' in W.Va. primary

Blankenship compares McConnell to 'the Russians' for 'interfering' in W.Va. primary
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West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship is upping his rhetorical war with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee MORE (R-Ky.), comparing him to “the Russians” and calling him the "Swamp captain." 

"The Russians and McConnell should both stop interfering with elections outside their jurisdictions," Blankenship, one of multiple Republicans challenging Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE (D-W.Va.) said in a statement on Monday about "D.C. swamp creatures." 

He added that McConnell "should not be in the U.S. Senate, let alone be the Republican Majority Leader. He is a Swamp captain. He does not understand that it is past time for Congress to put our country above politics and self-interest." 

The statement comes after an outside group with ties to national Republicans began running ads against the anti-establishment candidate — whose ascendency in the GOP primary has sparked alarm bells in Washington. 

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Blankenship's primary opponents, as well as the Senate GOP campaign arm, have been loath to directly attack the former coal CEO, who was released from prison less than a year ago after a mine disaster that killed 29 miners. 

But national Republicans appear poised to increase their attacks less than a months before the May 8 primary. 

The Mountain Families PAC is spending nearly $745,000 against Blankenship, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records filed on Friday. The money, according to the filing, is being spent on media production, placement and online ads.

The Charleston Gazette Mail reported late last week that the outside group had purchased nearly $220,000 in TV ads. 

According to FEC and Federal Communications Commission records, the group is based out of Arlington, Va. Ben Ottenhoff, listed as the group's treasurer, previously worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). 

The bulk of the nearly $745,000 is going to the Main Street Media Group, which has worked with the Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group with close ties to McConnell. 

McConnell told The New York Times earlier this year that he didn't want Blankenship to win the primary,  a three-way race between Blankenship, Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsMore than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents Key Republican says House taking targeted approach to combating opioid epidemic Dem candidate denies W.Va. is racist for rejecting Obama MORE (W.Va.) and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. 

But Blankenship has deep pockets and has spent millions on advertising since being released from prison. Polling released late last month from both of his opponents showed him in a close second place. 

Blankenship told The Hill earlier this month that he would not support McConnell as majority leader if Republicans hold on to the chamber after November — or GOP leader, if they do not. 

He added on Monday that the Kentucky Republican should "mind his own business and do his job."

"The Republican Party swampers in Washington have come to the surface to oppose my candidacy for the U.S. Senate. They are swamp creatures who pretend to be conservatives but are instead liberal big spenders," Blankenship added.

Republicans worry that the West Virginia GOP race could be a repeat of Alabama, where conservative firebrand Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRoby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism Once a Trump critic, Ala. rep faces runoff with his support Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee MORE won the primary but lost to now-Sen. Doug Jones (D) amid reports that he pursued relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s. 

With a 51-seat majority, Republicans view West Virginia, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE won by more than 40 points, as a prime pickup opportunity. 

Blankenship hit back against the comparisons to Moore on Monday, adding that if McConnell believes he can't defeat Manchin, then he "has no idea what the political realities are in West Virginia."

"The Never Trump movement has turned into the Never Blankenship movement," he added.