West Virginia governor expected to switch parties at Trump rally
Scott Halleran/Getty Images(HUNTINGTON, W.V.) — Democratic Governor of West Virginia Jim Justice is expected to switch to the Republican Party Thursday evening at President Donald Trump’s rally in his state, ABC News has learned.
Early Thursday Trump teased a “big announcement” at the event in Huntington, West Virginia.
News of Justice’s plans, which were first reported by The New York Times, surprised Republicans and Democrats alike in West Virginia. Prior to the news, the West Virginia GOP had even published an ill-timed tweet attacking Justice for being “low-energy.”
But in a statement, the West Virginia GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas said, “We look forward to Governor Justice reflecting the conservative values of our Party and platform.”
Lucas added to ABC News, “The rumors about Justice switching parties had been percolating since the legislative session. This wasn’t a new rumor for us at all.”
This is not the first time Justice has switched parties — he was a registered Republican before switching to the Democratic Party prior to his gubernatorial run in 2015.
Justice, who made his fortune in the coal industry, refused to endorse Hillary Clinton in the general election and has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s backing of West Virginia and coal miners. But Justice’s involvement in the coal industry has also made headlines as he’s faced accusations of not paying the bills.
In many ways, Justice and Trump have a lot in common. Justice is the only billionaire in the state, owns a luxury resort — the Greenbrier — that is home to a PGA tournament, and he counts celebrities and professional athletes as friends. Lionel Ritchie performed at his inauguration party in January.
Justice is also close to the Trump family — he went fishing at hunting at his property in West Virginia with Donald Trump Jr. in May.
And despite Trump’s low approval ratings nationally, he remains popular in West Virginia with an approval rating of 60 percent, according to Gallup. Sixty-nine percent of the state voted for Trump in November — with all 55 counties in West Virginia voting for the billionaire from Manhattan.
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