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West Virginia Governor Jim Justice switches from Democrat to Republican

Governor makes dramatic announcement at Donald Trump rally

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

HUNTINGTON, West Virginia (CFP) — Just nine months after winning West Virginia’s top job as a Democrat, Governor Jim Justice has switched to the Republican Party, telling his voters that “I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor.”

Governor Jim Justice

Justice made his announcement in the most public way possible — at August 3 campaign-style Donald Trump rally in Huntington, with the president looking on. And the newly minted Republican, a longtime friend of Trump and his family, offered an unqualified endorsement of his new party’s standard-bearer.

“This man is a good man. He’s got a backbone,” Justice said. “He’s got real ideas. He cares about America. He cares about us in West Virginia.”

Trump carried West Virginia by 42 points in November, his biggest margin of victory in any state except Wyoming, at the same time Justice was keeping the statehouse in Charleston in Democratic hands.

However, Justice told the crowd in Huntington that the decision to bolt to the GOP also stemmed from a dispute he had with Democrats in the legislature after a tax plan he crafted with Republican help went down to defeat.

“At the altar, when we had it done, like or or not, but the Democrats walked away from me,” he said.

In response to Justice’s announcement, West Virginia Democratic chairwoman Belinda Biafore issued a statement accusing the governor of caring more about his own political future than the people of his state.

“During his campaign for governor, Jim Justice said he would never lie to the public; he said he would never be a politician, and he would definitely be a full-time governor. None of those promises were kept,” she said.

“Jim Justice took advantage of Democrats by taking our money and our votes. It’s a slap in the face to all of us who believed in what he was promising. I never thought I would see Jim Justice be anyone’s puppet. Shame on him.”

Republicans control both house of the West Virginia legislature, which means Justice will now be titular head of a party that has complete control of state government for the first time since at least 1931.

Justice, noting that his late parents were both “staunch Republicans,” said he imagined that his mother was in heaven “saying ‘Jimmy, it’s about damn time you came to your senses.”

He also took a shot at those focusing on the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, which has been dominating the conversation in Washington.

“Haven’t we heard enough about the Russians?” Justice said, drawing thunderous applause from the pro-Trump crowd. “I mean, to our God in heaven above, think about it. The stock market’s at 22,000. And this country has hope. And we’re on our way.”

Like Trump, Justice, 66, was a billionaire businessman with no political experience before being elected, a fact the governor also noted while announcing his switch.

“This man and myself are not politicians. We ran to get something done,” he said. “We ran because we want nothing. We ran as our Founding Fathers did years and years ago, to serve.”

A sitting governor changing parties during his term in office is extraordinarily rare. The only recent precedent was former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who switched from Republican to independent in 2010 during an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senator. Crist is now a Democratic member of the U.S. House.

Justice’s switch means that Democrats now hold just three of 14 Southern governorships, in North Carolina, Louisiana and Virginia. Nationwide, Republicans hold the governor’s office in 34 states, matching their all time high.

Governor: North Carolina still up for grabs; Democrats keep West Virginia

Cooper declares victory in North Carolina, but McCrory refuses to concede; Justice has easy win in West Virginia

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) –Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper has claimed victory in the North Carolina governor’s race, holding an tiny, unofficial  4,700-vote lead over Governor Pat McCrory with provisional ballots still to be counted.

McCrory, however, is refusing to concede, pending counting of those ballots and a full canvass of the vote.

Meanwhile, in the only other Southern governor’s race this year, in West Virginia, Jim Justice, a billionaire coal mine owner, defeated Republican State Senate President Bill Cole by a margin of 49-42 percent to win an open seat.

Pat McCrory

Pat McCrory

Roy Cooper

Roy Cooper

In North Carolina, Cooper, who had trailed for most of the night, declared victory after late-reporting returns from Durham County put him ahead of McCrory.

“Because of your hard work, we have won this race for everyone in North Carolina,” Cooper told jubilant supporters in Raleigh. “This has been a hard-fought race, but the people of North Carolina have spoken, and they want a change in leadership.”

But McCrory refused to concede defeat, specifically mentioning the late Durham County vote as a concern. He said he would wait until seeing the results of the official canvasses in the state’s 100 counties, which won’t be completed until November 18.

“We’re going to check everything,” he told supporters at a Republican election night party in Raleigh. “We’re going to make sure every vote counts in North Carolina.”

The margin between Cooper and McCrory is less than one-tenth of 1 percent, small enough to allow McCrory to request a full recount under state law.

McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives made the governor a lightning rod.

The issue that has dominated the race was McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity, in public facilities.

McCrory continued to defend the law, even after a number of businesses scuttled expansion plans and the NCAA, NBA and ACC pulled events from the state.

Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court when students and the federal government took legal action to overturn it.

Jim Justice

Jim Justice

In West Virginia, Justice’s win was good news for Democrats, who have seen their once dominant hold on state politics slipping away. He won the governorship even as Donald Trump was thumping Hillary Clinton 65-29 percent in the Mountaineer State.

Speaking to supporters at the famed Greenbrier result in White Sulphur Springs, which he owns, Justice pulled out a speech from his pocket and began to read, only to discover that it was a concession speech.

Pulling a victory speech from his other pocket, he said, “We won.”

“I can tell you I’ll work as tirelessly as I possibly can,” Justice said. “We will give it everything we have.”

The seat was open because Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was term-limited.

Voters in North Carolina, West Virginia to pick governors

GOP’s McCrory tries to stay alive in North Carolina; Justice, Cole battle for open seat in West Virginia

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Voters in North Carolina and West Virginia are picking governors in the November 8 election, with polls showing tight races in both states.

In North Carolina, incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is running for a second term against Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper in what has become the nation’s most watched — and most expensive — gubernatorial battle.

Coooper

Coooper

McCrory

McCrory

McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives have made the governor a lightning rod.

The issue that has dominated the race is McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity.

McCrory has continued to defend the law, even after a number of businesses scuttled expansion plans and the NCAA, NBA and ACC pulled events from the state.

Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court when students and the federal government took legal action to overturn it.

Justice

Justice

Cole

Cole

In West Virginia, Democrats who have seen their once dominant hold on state politics slip away are hoping to revive their fortunes with Jim Justice, a billionaire coal mine owner best known for his efforts to revive the state’s famed Greenbrier Resort.

He faces Republican State Senate President Bill Cole, who an auto dealer from Bluefield who became leader of the chamber in 2015 after the GOP captured a Senate majority for the first time in 83 years.

This seat is open because Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is term-limited. A Republican has not been elected governor in the Mountaineer State since 1996.

State of the Races: Governor 2016

Competitive chief executive races on the ballot in North Carolina, West Virginia

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states sm(CFP) — In 2016, just two Southern states will be holding races for governor, and the races in both North Carolina and West Virginia are expected to be close, hard-fought affairs.

Heading into the election, Republicans hold 11 of 14 governorships in the South, in all but Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia.

Here are this year’s races:

McCrory

McCrory

Coooper

Cooper

North Carolina: Incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is running for a second term against the Tar Heel State’s Democratic attorney general, Roy Cooper. McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives have made the governor a lightning rod. The issue dominating the race is McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity. Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court. Expect massive amounts of outside cash to be poured into this race, which has become the latest battle in the culture wars. RATING: TOSS-UP

Justice

Justice

Cole

Cole

West Virginia: Democrats in the Mountaineer State, who have seen their once dominant hold on state politics slip away, are hoping to revive their fortunes with Jim Justice, a billionaire coal mine owner best known for his efforts to revive the state’s famed Greenbrier Resort. He faces Republican State Senate President Bill Cole, who became leader of the chamber in 2015 after the GOP captured a Senate majority for the first time in 83 years. Cole, an auto dealer from Bluefield, is hoping to become the first Republican elected governor in West Virginia since 1996. To get there, he’ll have to overcome Justice’s deep pockets. This seat is open because Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is term-limited, putting this race near the top of the GOP’s target list. RATING: TOSS-UP

Bernie Sanders cruises to big win in West Virginia primary

Democrat Jim Justice wins Democratic governor’s race, will face Republican Bill Cole in November

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

west-virginia mugCHARLESTON, West Virginia (CFP) — U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont easily won the Democratic presidential primary in West Virginia, notching a rare victory in the South.

sanders-lgSanders took 51.4 percent of the vote in Mountaineer State, compared to just 35.9 percent for Hillary Clinton. On the Republican ballot, Donald Trump–now unopposed for the nomination–scored an easy victory, taking 77 percent in the May 10 vote.

Meanwhile, in the state’s gubernatorial primaries, political newcomer Jim Justice won the Democratic nomination and will face Republican State Senate President Bill Cole in the general election. The incumbent Democrat, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, is term limited.

A Republican hasn’t won the governorship in West Virginia since 1996. However, the state’s recent GOP trend, which including capturing the state legislature in 2014, has given Republicans high hopes for taking the state’s top office.

But they will have to get past the deep pockets of Justice, a billionaire farmer and coal mine owner who was a registered Republican until 2015. Justice has gotten the coveted endorsement of the politically powerful United Mine Workers of America and other labor groups., as well as conservative Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.

Sanders’ victory in West Virginia is just his second win in the South this primary season. With only Kentucky left to vote on May 17, Clinton has swept everything in the region except Oklahoma, most by wide margins.

Speaking to jubilant supporters in Salem, Oregon, as the results came in, Sanders pointedly noted that Clinton carried West Virginia by more than 40 points when she ran against Barack Obama in 2008

“West Virginia is a working class state and like many other states … in this country, working class people are hurting,” Sander said. “And what the people of West Virginia said tonight, and I believe the people of Oregon and Kentucky will say next week, is that we need an economy that works for all of the people, not just the 1 percent.”

Clinton was dogged by a remark she made in March that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” which went over badly in coal-producing West Virginia. She later apologized for what she termed a “misstatement.”

Kentucky, the last Southern state left in the Democratic primary calendar, is also a coal-producing state. Both Sanders and Clinton have been campaigning hard in the Bluegrass State.

West Virginia was the final Southern stop for Republicans. Trump won every state in the region except for Oklahoma and Texas, which went to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.

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