Jim Justice, West Virginia Governor, made a controversial announcement at a rally that was hosted by President Trump. Jim Justice, who was once a Democratic governor, announced that he is officially switching to the Republican Party. On Thursday night, Justice made the shocking move only nine months after being elected as a Democrat.
Justice spoke to a crowd of 9,000 Trump supporters, then moments later and after a slight pause, he looked to the crowd and told them he was no longer able to lead them as a Democrat governor. Justice added, “The Democrats walked away from me.”
“I tell you as West Virginians, I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor.”
Justice assured the crowd that he and Trump are not traditional “politicians,” that he and Trump ran, giving up part of their lives to serve the United States as America’s Founding Fathers did years ago.
“Now, I can tell you, if you’ll just give me just a moment… This man and myself are not politicians. We ran to get something done. We ran and gave up part of our lives. We ran because we want nothing. We ran as our Founding Fathers did years and years ago — to serve.”
Justice’s big announcement came at a point in the rally when mayhem was breaking out in the crowd.
The New York Times had reported earlier that afternoon that Justice was changing political parties, and many in the crowd seemed to know what the announcement would be.
Several protesters seated high in the stands behind Trump had unfurled banners and were being confronted by those seated around them, according to Fox News. The protestors were promptly escorted out of the arena by security.
During the rally, when President Trump called Jim Justice to the stage, he was met with enthusiastic cheers in the arena when he addressed Jim Justice as his “good friend” and he had an announcement to make.
As Jim Justice took the stage, the crowd chanted, “Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!” The crowd kept cheering as Justice told them that he had been to the Oval Office twice in the last few weeks to share his ideas for reviving the coal and manufacturing industries, according to the Washington Post.
Justice had his first interview with Fox Business Insider after his announcement. Justice said he has a great relationship with President Trump and that he began discussing the possibility of his switch two and half weeks ago.
Trump said Justice’s switch is a result of the trend of people feeling let down by the Democratic Party.
“Governor Justice did something else important tonight. He showed the country that our agenda rises above left or right… It’s an agenda for all of the people, especially for the tens of millions of forgotten people.”
However, it still appeared odd to many to see a politician to switch his party so soon after getting elected. Elisabeth Pearson, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, said in a statement that Justice deceived the voters of West Virginia by running as a Democrat for eight months.
“Jim Justice deceived the voters of West Virginia when he ran as a Democrat 8 months ago… 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.”
The statement went on to question the motive behind Justice’s decision to switch parties.
“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.”
Justice has switched political parties multiple times in the past. The 66-year-old West Virginia native inherited a coal business from his father. According to Forbes, Justice is currently the richest man in West Virginia, with a net worth estimated at $1.6 billion.
Similar to Trump, Jim Justice is also the owner of a famous resort and country club, the Greenbrier in West Virginia. Justice bought the resort for $20.5 million in 2009, rescuing it from bankruptcy.
Jose Gonzalez said it is a sign of the “times.” Gonzalez is a 37-year-old project manager at a local steel plant and is a former Democrat who voted for Trump after his first pick for president, Bernie Sanders, lost the Democratic primary, according to the Washington Post.
“I think it’s a sign of the times… On paper, I had to register as a Republican. But I have to say, I’m somewhere in the middle… The Democratic Party used to look out for the downtrodden, but more and more working people are going for Republicans.”
Ahead of the President’s expected appearance at the West Virginia rally, at least 1,000 supporters lined the streets wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and chanting “USA! USA!”
West Virginia, traditionally a blue state, in recent years it has flipped to be Republican-leaning. However, the state has always been socially conservative. In the past, Presidential elections from the Great Depression through the 1990s has illustrated that the Democratic Party has almost led the state. However, when George W. Bush won West Virginia by 6 points, a shift was noticed. Since then, the Republican candidate has gained a greater victory over the Democratic one.
[Featured Image by Susan Walsh/AP Images]