This past Sunday the Gazette-Mail ran a very detailed front-page investigation by David Gutman into the influence that Don Blankenship's aides have had on recent state politics:
There is no record of Blankenship making any political donations in West Virginia in 2014, and Republicans made unprecedented gains — winning the statehouse for the first time in eight decades and winning every available congressional seat.
But those gains were engineered, in part, by Blankenship’s longtime personal aides and political operatives, who continue to hold outsize influence in state Republican politics. And, as Blankenship faces three felonies and up to 30 years in jail in perhaps the highest profile trial in West Virginia history, he still casts a long shadow over West Virginia politics.
Blankenship’s favored policies — lower taxes, anti-union measures, pro-business legal reform and the easing of coal industry regulations — have mostly been implemented, in part because as the state has shifted toward the GOP his ex-lieutenants have been successful in helping Republican candidates get elected.
Gutman's investigative piece explains how this came to be. This is a good starting point if you want to understand the current state of West Virginia politics.