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West Virginia Governor, Putting Trump's Name on the Line for Re-Election, Says He's Been Asked to Help Pitch Coal to China



January 17, 2020 - West Virginia Governor Jim Justice filed the official paperwork for President Donald Trump to be on West Virginia ballots and also told media the story of an outreach duty the president gave him on a telephone call yesterday.

Trump on Wednesday signed an economic deal that commits China to buy an additional $200 billion in American products over the next two years.

A portion of the purchases would include liquefied natural gas, crude oil, refined products and coal, U.S. officials said. The full amount of the energy aspect of the deal was $18.5 billion in 2020 and $33.9 billion in 2021.


Gov. Jim Justice celebrates after filing for his own re-election and after filing papers on behalf of President Trump.

Photo: Brad McElhinny, MetroNews

China is the world’s largest producer of coal, but the U.S. shipped about $128 million of coal to China last year through November.

Coal exports, a bright spot of West Virginia’s economy last year, have been depressed in recent months. Metallurgical coal, used in steel-making, is most likely to be affected by the announced deal.

Justice said that Trump, over the telephone, asked him to work with Chinese representatives on the coal aspect of the deal. Justice, besides being governor, has significant coal holdings.

The governor said Trump told him, “The Chinese are going to buy a tremendous amount of coal from us and I want you to head it up and I want you to work directly with them.”

Justice continued, “In all honesty it’s probably the brightest point for our West Virginia coal miners that’s happened forever. ”

Speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Justice acknowledged that the details of the trade deal are not yet hammered out.

But he said, “The net of the whole thing is, they have the need and the desire to buy an incredible amount of coal and it could put lots and lots of our miners to work.

“I’m going to try to get all of the West Virginia mining companies involved and see if we can put this together. This could be an incredible breakthrough as far as our metallurgical producers and on and on.”

Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association was among those who went to watch Justice file for his own re-election and on behalf of Trump. Hamilton was also trying to learn more about the deal. Hamilton said he’d been in touch with the National Mining Association.

“It’s very sketchy. It’s kind of a broad-based communication,” Hamilton said, adding that coal industry leaders are excited despite the uncertainty over the details.

Hamilton was among a roomful of reporters and Justice supporters at the Secretary of State’s Office. Others there to watch included Melody Potter, chairwoman of the West Virginia GOP, and Roman Stauffer, Justice’s current campaign manager.

It’s been a brisk week of filing to run for election in West Virginia.

Justice was among 16 candidates to have filed for governor as a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or independent. Justice is being opposed in the Republican primary by candidates including former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and former Delegate Mike Folk.

Morning Consult, which tracks popularity ratings among the nation’s governors, lists Justice as among the least popular governors in America, with 42 percent approval and 47 percent disapproval.

Justice, a businessman with a long personal relationship with President Trump, has long touted their close bond. That will certainly continue through the electoral cycle.

“I couldn’t be prouder to be his buddy,” Justice said.

President Trump remains quite popular in West Virginia. Morning Consult shows his approval at 59 percent and his disapproval at 38 percent.

“West Virginians overwhelmingly support President Trump,” state GOP Chairwoman Melody Potter stated in response to Trump’s filing for re-election today. “In 2016, West Virginia gave President Trump the largest share of the vote in any state. In 2020, we will rise to the occasion and deliver once more.”

By the time Trump’s name had been processed to be on West Virginia’s ballot for 2020, the only other Republican for president was  perennial candidate Roque “Rocky” de la Fuente.

Democrats who had already filed for West Virginia’s ballot included U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and David Lee Rice.

Justice showed up at the Secretary of State’s office with what he called a “big, fancy check” with Donald Trump’s signature.

“Great stuff,” he said. “Great, great stuff.”