Ex-convict coal magnate says to run for Senate
FILE PHOTO: Former Massey Energy Chief Executive Don Blankenship is talking on his mobile phone as he walks into the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse in Charleston, West Virginia December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Tilley/File Photo

Don Blankenship, the former CEO of coal company Massey Energy who was recently released from jail after a sentence for violating mine safety laws, said on Wednesday he plans to run for U.S. Senate representing West Virginia.

"It's true," he told Reuters in an email, without elaborating.

Local broadcaster WCHS-TV first reported the news earlier on Wednesday, saying Blankenship filed his registration papers this week to run as a Republican, making him an official candidate for the seat during 2018 elections.

A Federal Election Commission spokeswoman said she had not yet seen the filing.

Blankenship was sentenced to a year in prison in April 2016 for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards, following an explosion in 2010 at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 people.

He is the most prominent American coal executive to be jailed for mine deaths.

He was released in May 2017. He has maintained that his conviction was unfair and the accident at Upper Big Branch was distorted by the media.

If Blankenship wins the Republican nomination, he would be up against incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin, who was governor at the time of the Upper Big Branch explosion and vehemently criticized Blankenship over the incident.

Rival Republican Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey said he welcomed Blankenship's entry into the race.

(Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Andrew Hay and Cynthia Osterman)