Yesterday, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice used the occasion of a huge rally in Huntington, WV, to announce that the state’s Democrat governor was switching parties.
A little background is necessary here. Until about 10-15 years ago West Virginia was a “yellow dog Democrat” state. That is, given the choice between voting for a yellow dog and a Republican, the state would take the yellow dog. This is the state where 60% of all public structures are named after (thankfully) deceased Senator Robert Byrd whose animatronic corpse now gives lap dances in the federally funded and perpetually maintained Robert C. Byrd Memorial Mausoleum and Draft House. (Okay, I made that last part up.) This is a state that elected Palestinian sympathizer Nick Rahall for a couple of decades. Its politics are local and populist. That is all shifting and now all three Congressional seats are held by Republicans and one of two Senate seats is GOP. Joe Manchin, the other senator, is running scared but is probably safe because of his name and in West Virginia, a well known political name is worth a lot of votes. Shelly Moore Capito was able to win as a Representative back when the state was Democrat on the strength of her being the daughter of former governor and convicted felon, Arch Moore.
Until 2015, Jim Justice was a registered Republican. Justice was probably the richest man in WV. He owned a little bit of about every enterprise in the state. He owned interests in mines and the United Mine Workers loved him. He entered the Democrat primary and won 50%+ in a three-man race against two machine Democrats.
In the same race that put Justice in the statehouse, the voters gave the GOP huge majorities in the WV House and Senate (nearly veto proof) and they gave Donald Trump nearly 68% of the vote.
Of course they are hard-working. They mean well. Just close-minded, provincial, angry & easily misled. My wife's dad was a coal miner in PA. https://t.co/9q5JJ3fq90
— Stuart Rothenberg (@StuPolitics) August 4, 2017
For a lot of very good political reasons, Justice has decided to go back to being what he always was, a rich Republican fond of populist rhetoric. But it was a shock:
The news is shocking. Even his top staff and close advisers did not know. One told me he found out about it on Twitter. Another told me yesterday he wouldn’t believe it until he heard it from the Governor’s mouth.
Anti-Trump protesters gathered at the Huntington venue last night chanted, “Jim Justice is a traitor.”
(I am told gunner305 was witnessed leading the chant and someone was screaming “Russia is not our friend.”)
Today, the Democrat Governor’s Association had their say:
“Jim Justice deceived the voters of West Virginia when he ran as a Democrat 8 months ago,” said DGA Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson. “West Virginians have learned that they simply can’t trust Jim Justice. He will always put his financial interests above the needs of West Virginians.
“As Republicans have repeatedly said, Jim Justice owes millions of dollars in unpaid company taxes, after a deal with a Russian coal company. The debts have only worsened during Justice’s term as governor. If President Trump cut a deal, we hope it does not put U.S. taxpayers on the hook to bail out Jim Justice’s personal finances.”
The amazing part is that all these things they are whinging about now were known during the campaign and the Democrats spent millions telling the voters they weren’t important. And the voters believed them. If Jim Justice is a corrupt and self-serving douche today, he’s pretty much the same guy they funded in 2016. (I would have quoted their “victory” press release but it seems to have “disappeared” from the Democratic Governors Association website.)
Malloy Statement on Jim Justice Victory in West Virginia
Tonight, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, Chair of the Democratic Governors Association, issued the following statement on Governor-elect Jim Justice’s victory in West Virginia:
“Congratulations to Governor-elect Jim Justice on tonight’s victory in West Virginia,” Gov. Malloy said. “Jim Justice won this election because voters saw a leader capable of growing the state’s economy and fighting for West Virginia workers. As governor, Justice brings a proven track record of creating jobs, and a vision to put more West Virginians back to work. We look forward to Governor-elect Justice building on the successful Democratic leadership in West Virginia, and congratulate him on a well-earned victory.”