Blankenship was found guilty of misdemeanor conspiracy to violate mine safety standards related to the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine explosion on April 5, 2010, that killed 29 miners. He was not charged with causing the explosion, but the charges were related to events leading up the explosion and statements made following the tragedy. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“I look forward to talking with West Virginians and telling them why I am the best candidate,” Blankenship said on twitter.

Blankenship has continued to maintain his innocence regarding the disaster. In an ad for his campaign, the disaster is described as “Obama’s deadliest coverup,” and that Mine Safety and Health Administration documents revealed that the “Upper Big Branch internal report was fixed.”

Another ad addresses statements made about Blankenship regarding his concern for safety, stating that he was a “safety innovator.” His website says, “Its simple, Don Blankenship led the industry in safety and in protecting miners for decades. Slogans saying anything to the contrary are just that—slogans.”

During a town hall meeting in Logan County, West Virginia, Blankenship said the man who is described in the media is not him, but a “fictional character” and “a result of liberals only listening to liberals.” He said those people do not know the real him.

Other candidates in the race include U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, former coal miner Bo Copley, and Major Tom Willis.