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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The West Virginia Senate primary has become a lot more interesting thanks to Don Blankenship, one of three Republican contenders, who has railed against government and even high-profile Republicans with vulgar and personal insults.

Why it matters: Although conventional Republicans are hoping to force Blankenship — who's fresh out of prison after his involvement in a mine explosion — out of the race, he's found a following among Republicans who share his hatred for the establishment and appreciate his brashness.

Why he's so controversial: His attacks, on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in particular, as part of his cutthroat campaign are becoming too outrageous to ignore:

Attacks on McConnell

  • “I have an issue when the father-in-law [Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao's father] is a wealthy Chinaperson. There’s a lot of connections to some of the brass, if you will, in China ... I read in books that people think he’s soft on China." [NYT]
  • "This idea that calling somebody a Chinaperson, I mean I am an Americanperson, I don't see this insinuation from the press that there's something racist about saying a Chinaperson. Some people are Koreanpersons, some of them are Africanpersons. It's not any slander there." [Fox News Debate]
  • “One of my goals as U.S. senator will be to ditch cocaine Mitch. When you vote for me, you’re voting for the sake of the kids,”” [Facebook ad] [Link for context]
  • “McConnell should not be in the U.S. Senate, let alone be the Republican Majority Leader. He is a Swamp captain ... The Russians and McConnell should both stop interfering with elections outside their jurisdictions.” [Politico]
  • “The media, McConnell and others also like to spread the rumor that my candidacy is akin to that of Roy Moore. This is nonsense. ... My accusers are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.” [Politico]
  • In May, Blankenship brought a pair of "Ditch Mitch" baseball caps to a Fox News debate.

Attacks on his GOP opponents

  • “Voters in West Virginia don’t want Joe Manchin-lite anymore than they want Joe Manchin. Trying to trick voters by dressing up a candidate like Evan Jenkins with the same principles and failed policy positions of Joe Manchin smacks of the swamp logic...” [Blankenship campaign site]

The Russia investigation

  • “You know, I’ve had a little personal experience with the Department of Justice [referring to his time in prison]. They lie a lot, too” [Fox News debate]

The backdrop: West Virginia, a state President Trump won by 42 points, has become a key Republican target ahead of November, with several candidates hoping to snag Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's seat.

What's next: The Senate primary is on May 8.

Go deeper

Updated 41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Dave Lawler, author of World
55 mins ago - World

Biden holds first phone call with Putin, raises Navalny arrest

Putin takes a call in 2017. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

President Biden on Tuesday held his first call since taking office with Vladimir Putin, pressing the Russian president on the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the Russia-linked hack on U.S. government agencies, AP reports.

The state of play: Biden also planned to raise arms control, bounties allegedly placed on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who said the call took place while she was delivering a press briefing. Psaki added that a full readout will be provided later Tuesday.

Biden signs racial equity executive orders

Joe Biden prays at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 3, 2020, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. PHOTO: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed executive orders on housing and ending the Justice Department's use of private prisons as part of what the White House is calling his “racial equity agenda.”

The big picture: Biden needs the support of Congress to push through police reform or new voting rights legislation. The executive orders serve as his down payment to immediately address systemic racism while he focuses on the pandemic.