January 8, 2019 - West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday he’ll seek re-election in 2020.
“The further I go, the more I believe just this: I believe there’s work still to be done,” Justice said in announcing his plans at the White Sulphur Springs Civic Center.
This time, he’ll enter the campaign as a Republican. Justice was elected as a Democrat in 2016 in a largely self-funded campaign, then switched to the GOP less than a year later. Both Houses of West Virginia’s Legislature are controlled by Republicans.
Justice offered no details about any new proposals, but said he will seek to reduce the scourge of drug addiction in the state. West Virginia by far leads the nation in the rate of drug overdose deaths.
Justice has spearheaded major road projects that were approved by voters in 2017 through a $1.6 billion bond referendum. His term has coincided with an economic rebound in West Virginia.
State revenue collections have surpassed tax estimates for eight consecutive months. Collections for the first five months of the fiscal year were $141 million above estimates and 13.2 percent ahead of year-ago receipts.
But the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.2 percent in November was the third highest in the nation behind Alaska and Washington, D.C., and far above the national rate of 3.7 percent. West Virginia’s rate was 5.6 percent when Justice took office in January 2017.
Justice has been reported to be the richest man in West Virginia, with a fortune estimated at $1.9 billion by Forbes magazine. He and his family own coal mines, agriculture businesses and the posh Greenbrier resort.
In August, Justice announced his coal businesses had paid millions of dollars to resolve tax disputes with the state of West Virginia and its counties. He had promised to fix the outstanding issues since shortly after being elected. Similar issues are being worked on with the states of Virginia and Kentucky.
The governor also has been criticized by some Democrats for not being regularly present at the Capitol and for living in Lewisburg despite a constitutional requirement that he reside at the seat of government.
Justice defeated former Senate President Jeff Kessler and ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin in the 2016 Democratic primary, then outlasted Republican Senate President Bill Cole in the general election.
Justice formed a task force last year to look for long-term funding solutions for a public employees’ insurance plan. He’s promised another 5 percent pay increase for state teachers this year, less than a year after teachers won a similar raise following a nine-day strike. He also has proposed infusing $100 million into the insurance plan.