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GOP W.Va. candidate: McConnell faces conflicts of interest because wife's father is 'wealthy Chinaperson'

The Hill logo The Hill 4/25/2018 Morgan Gstalter

A Republican running for U.S. Senate in West Virginia suggested that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faces conflicts of interests because his wife's father is a "wealthy Chinaperson."

Don Blankenship during a Monday appearance on a West Virginia radio show pointed to McConnell's marriage to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The clip was first reported on by The New York Times.

"I have an issue when the father-in-law is a wealthy Chinaperson," Blankenship said in response to a question about an ad produced by a super PAC linked to McConnell that accuses the former coal magnate of poisoning local drinking water from his mines.

Chao's father owns a shipping company based out of New York.

"There's a lot of connections to some of the brass, if you will, in China," Blankenship said, adding that he's read in books that people think McConnell is soft on China.

McConnell and other senators need to be "more transparent" about their business ties, Blankenship said.

a close up of a man © Provided by The Hill

Blankenship, however, is the only candidate from either party in the West Virginia race who has not disclosed his personal finances, which is required by law.

"I don't personally think anybody should have to disclose private information," Blankenship reportedly said last week.

Blankenship's own fiancee, Farrah Meiling Hobbs, was born in China and moved to the U.S. in 1996, the Times noted. According to a website of the international training company she founded, Hobbs is a "former Chinese professional basketball player and part-time model."

Blankenship also took a hit at McConnell's stance on coal, saying he didn't fight hard enough to promote it.

"I never felt that he fought as hard for coal and energy in West Virginia and Kentucky as he should have," Blankenship said.

Washington Republicans, including those close to McConnell, have been sounding the alarm on Blankenship's candidacy. They've raised concerns that he'll be too weak to defeat Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) thanks to the backlash from a deadly explosion at one of his mines. Blankenship recently spent a year in prison for charges related to that explosion.

A Republican super PAC with ties to Washington Republicans has been hammering Blankenship with attacks for weeks, and two recent polls have shown Blankenship receding into a clear third-place position behind Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the GOP primary.

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