Manchin jabs challenger with ad highlighting mine explosion

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Biden, Xi talk climate at UN forum Election reform in the states is not all doom and gloom Manchin presses Interior nominee on leasing program review MORE (D-W.Va.) highlighted a 1968 mine explosion in his first reelection ad on Wednesday — an apparent jab at a potential Republican opponent who oversaw a company responsible for another fatal mine disaster.

Manchin’s video is seen as a reference to Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy and a contender for the Republican nomination.

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Blankenship was convicted in 2015 of conspiring to violate safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine, where a mine disaster in 2010 left 29 people dead. Blankenship was released from his 1-year prison sentence in 2017.

In his campaign ad, Manchin stands in front of what appears to be a memorial for those that died in an earlier mine explosion in 1968 and points out the names of people he knew who died.

“I lost an uncle, I lost a neighbor, I lost guys I played ball with,” Manchin says. “This is real for me.”

“People here have been screwed by both political parties,” Manchin goes on to say. “Yes, Washington sucks, but West Virginians don't give up, and I will never give up trying to make it better.”

Manchin's seat became a top GOP target after President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE won the state by more than 40 points in 2016.

The West Virginia primaries will be held on May 8. Manchin is currently facing Paula Jean Swearengin, a more progressive challenger, in the Democratic primary, although he's expected to carry the nomination.

Blankenship — a GOP donor who has been active in local and state politics — is running in a close race against Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

The Republican establishment in Washington, wary that Blankenship's conviction for the mine disaster will make him a poor general election candidate, have launched attacks to stop from winning the GOP nomination.