Manchin: No decision made on Kavanaugh nomination

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., right, speaks during a visit Thursday to Henderson Wilds in Williamstown as Blennerhassett Friends of the NRA board members Bob Buchanan, left, and Jim Carez listen. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

WILLIAMSTOWN — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he hasn’t made up his mind how he’ll vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court and he’ll welcome Don Blankenship to the ballot if he legally qualifies.

Those are a couple of the topics the senator discussed while visiting Wood County Thursday.

Manchin said there are groups spending millions of dollars apparently trying to sway him to vote for or against President Donald Trump’s second nominee to the high court. As far as he’s concerned, they’re wasting their money.

“I don’t know how anybody can make a decision until they at least meet with the gentleman,” said Manchin, who sat down with Kavanaugh on July 30. “I found him to be very forthcoming.”

Manchin said he’s been reviewing rulings Kavanaugh has made and intends to decide after the Senate’s confirmation hearings. He said he’s looking for a Constitutionalist who will follow the rule of law so that everyone, “from the president to a homeless person, is all treated the same.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., left, takes aim on a shooting simulator Thursday at Henderson Wilds in Williamstown as Henderson Wilds owner Greg Smith gives him some pointers. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“I’m just not going to let it be politicized,” Manchin said.

The senator said he isn’t contesting the efforts of Blankenship, the former Massey Energy CEO, to run as a member of the Constitution Party for the Senate seat Manchin holds in November.

“He should have the same rights, whatever rights are bestowed upon any citizen,” Manchin said.

Blankenship finished third in the Republican primary behind West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the GOP nominee, and Congressman Evan Jenkins, then filed to run as the Constitution Party’s candidate. But Secretary of State Mac Warner disqualified him from the ballot, citing the state’s “Sore Loser” law that prevents candidates who lost a major party primary from running as an affiliated or minor party nominee in the general election.

On Thursday, Blankenship announced his attorneys had filed a petition with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, asking that the Secretary of State’s decision be overturned.

“I think it’ll go through the process,” Manchin said. “If Don is able to be on the ballot, he’ll bring an awful lot to the dialogue.”

Blankenship served a year in prison on a misdemeanor conviction for conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine, where a 2010 mine explosion killed 29 men. For years, Blankenship has claimed misconduct and coverups by federal officials, including Manchin, related to the explosion and his conviction.

Asked about this week’s close race in the special election for Ohio’s traditionally Republican-dominated 12th Congressional District, Manchin said, “It just shows you people are energized” heading into the midterm elections. That reinforces the idea that he and other lawmakers ultimately answer to the voters, he said.

“My boss is the people of West Virginia,” Manchin said.

Visiting the Henderson Wilds gun shop and training center and outdoor recreational retailer, owned by Manchin’s longtime friend Greg Smith, in Williamstown, the senator talked about the importance of gun safety and common-sense legislation to head off potential gun violence while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

Legislation he previously advocated and was criticized for would simply have required background checks on all commercial transactions, such as at gun shows, not personal sales by individuals, Manchin said. A law-abiding gun owner wouldn’t sell to a stranger or someone who was deranged, he said.

“Close the loopholes. That’s all we tried to do,” Manchin said.

Now, he’s looking at legislation that would allow a parent who notices a change in their child’s behavior and believes they could be dangerous to ask the court to have firearms to which they have access confiscated, similar to a domestic violence protection order, Manchin said.

Smith gave Manchin a tour of the store on West Virginia 14, where eight area law enforcement agencies – including the Vienna and Williamstown Police departments – regularly hold firearms training and qualifications.