Coal baron Blankenship goes down hard in West Virginia, and other primary news

Christopher Wilson
Senior Writer
Senate Republican primary candidate Don Blankenship addresses supporters in Charleston, W.Va., following a poor showing in the polls May 8, 2018. President Trump had urged the state to vote for Blankenship’s opponents, declaring the former coal executive “can’t win the General Election.” (Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Tuesday evening, results became clear after voters in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia cast their votes in the 2018 primaries. While the most hyped potential story of the night — a win by former coal executive and ex-convict Don Blankenship in the West Virginia Republican Senate primary — didn’t come to pass, there are some results of note and one Twitter Photoshopped image from a surprising source.

A GOP incumbent goes down: In North Carolina’s Ninth District, along the south central border of the state, incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger fell to Baptist pastor Mark Harris. Pittenger has represented the district since 2012 but lost to Harris in a rematch of a 2016 primary he had won by just 134 votes. The district was already expected to be competitive — the Democratic primary winner, Scott McCready, has raised over a million dollars — but Harris’s victory moved the race from a likely Republican lean to a toss-up according to some analysts. Harris is an outspoken opponent of gay marriage who successfully led a campaign to amend North Carolina’s constitution to state that the only legal marriages in the state could be between a man and woman. (While the amendment was overruled by the Supreme Court, it’s still in the state’s constitution.) Harris’s campaign website maintains that position, and it’s likely to be raised by McCready, a Marine Corps veteran who owns a solar farm.

Robert Pittenger, Mark Harris. (Photos: Chuck Burton/AP, John D. Simmons /The Charlotte Observer via AP)

McConnell takes a shot at Blankenship: Blankenship, the businessman who spent time in federal prison after an explosion at a mine he owned killed 29 people, did not win the Republican Senate primary in West Virginia, finishing third. He did, however, garner an interesting tweet from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Blankenship spent his campaign attacking McConnell (calling him “Cocaine Mitch,” a reference to a drug cache once found aboard a cargo ship owned by his in-laws) and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (calling her father a “China-person” during a debate). Following Blankenship’s loss, McConnell’s official campaign Twitter account posted an image with the senator’s head Photoshopped into an ad for the Netflix series “Narcos” with the text “Thanks for playing, Don.” McConnell’s face was placed over that of actor Wagner Moura, who portrayed drug kingpin Pablo Escobar on the show, in a cloud of cocaine. The official “Narcos” account retweeted McConnell’s post with a pun, calling it a “low blow.”

The original promotional image for the show is here.

The West Virginia Senate GOP primary was won by state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who will face incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin.

An upset in Indiana: The GOP Senate primary in Indiana was one of the most brutal in the country as Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, two sitting U.S. congressmen and old college rivals, competed for the opportunity to take on incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly in a state President Trump won by 19 points in 2016. Rokita attempted to gain support from Trump voters by advertising that he had received an endorsement from Trump and former Indiana Governor Mike Pence — until the White House asked Rokita to remove the lawn signs because no such endorsement had been issued. The blood feud ended badly for both, paving the way for former state representative and businessman Mike Braun to take the nomination with over 40 percent of the vote. Braun poured millions of his own money into the race and positioned himself as a Washington outsider like Trump.

Todd Rokita, Mike Braun, Luke Messer. (Photos: Darron Cummings/AP, Michael Conroy/AP, Darron Cummings-Pool/AP)

Kucinich blown out in Ohio: Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Ohio by 40 points, falling to former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief and former state Attorney General Richard Cordray, who had the backing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Kucinich earned the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution group but not of Sanders himself, who called Kucinich a friend but declined to issue an endorsement in the race. Some Democrats in the state were wary of Kucinich’s ties to a group sympathetic to Syrian President Bashar Assad (Kucinich took a speaking fee from the group but said he plans to return the money) while being bothered by his appearances on Fox News praising Trump. (Those episodes contributed to the eccentric reputation of Kucinich, who once claimed he saw a UFO.) Cordray — who was attacked by Kucinich for having previously received a National Rifle Association endorsement — will compete against current state Attorney General Mike DeWine, who was victorious in the Republican primary, to fill the seat of Gov. John Kasich, who will be term-limited out of the position.

Richard Cordray, Dennis Kucinich. (Photos: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images, John Minchillo/AP)

(Cover tile photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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