CHARLESTON -- Ken Hechler has filed to run for the U.S. Senate, challenging Gov. Joe Manchin for the Democratic nomination.
Hechler, 95, said he doesn't expect to win the race.
"I don't want to make it a campaign against Gov. Manchin," Hechler said Wednesday morning, speaking on the phone from New York, where he is doing a series of public lectures.
"I want to make it about mountaintop removal. A vote for me is not a vote for Ken Hechler -- it's tantamount to a vote against mountaintop removal."
He filed to run with the secretary of state's office via fax.
Hechler served nine terms in the U.S. House from 1958-1977 and four terms as West Virginia's secretary of state from 1985-2001.
In 2004, he ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state, a race that was won by Republican Betty Ireland. Because of Hechler's age -- he turned 90 during his campaign -- the race gained some national attention.
Hechler has been a longtime opponent of mountaintop mining and has been involved in several public protests.
He was arrested last summer for obstructing and impeding the flow of traffic outside a Massey Energy prep plant in Sundial, Raleigh County.
He also was among more than 100 people accused in May 2009 of trespassing on Massey Energy property near Pettus to protest a surface mine project there, but he was not arrested then.
Hechler said he has not talked to other Democrats about his Senate bid but decided to run not long after the state Legislature agreed to hold a primary next month.
He said he doesn't expect his entry into the race will go over well with many in the party.
"I pretty well decided if I got any opposition I would stick to my guns," he said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio, Manchin's former chief of staff, said the party will not endorse any candidate "or do anything" until the primary is over and the general election race is underway.
"Mr. Hechler is a fine man and has been a good friend," Puccio said.
Hechler didn't reveal details about how he plans to raise funds for a campaign, other than to say he "has a little saved up."
Gary Zuckett, the executive director of the left-leaning West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said Hechler was a fine candidate.