West Virginia Governor Eyeing US Senate Bid
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s folksy Republican governor, Jim Justice, says he is “seriously considering running for U.S. Senate” in 2024 — the mere suggestion already making him the GOP frontrunner for the seat currently held by Democrat Joe Manchin.
“I’m really thinking very hard about it,” Justice said during his weekly COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday. “I have not made a final decision yet.”
He added that he would continue to be devoted to the governor’s responsibilities over the remaining two years of his term.
“I promise you irregardless to whatever I do, I’ll be your governor for the next two years,” Justice said.
In a subsequent interview with Hoppy Kercheval, host of MetroNews’ “Talkline” on WVRC in Morgantown, West Virginia, and a newsman often called the radio “dean” of West Virginia broadcasters, Justice expanded on these thoughts, saying, “I will absolutely run through the finish line as governor.”
“I mean, for crying out loud, I can close to the finish, cut every ribbon and be as happy as a bug in … whatever,” the governor said.
“The thing is, I wanted continued goodness for our state,” he continued. “And I’ll try to help in any way that I can, whether it be in the U.S. Senate or in the House or as the next governor of our state, whatever it may be.
“So, I may very well be doing it from home, or I may very well be doing it from Washington. That’s my thought on this,” Justice added.
The governor’s statement comes just a week after Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., announced he’s “all in” for a bid for Manchin’s seat in 2024. Another Republican, coal miner Chris Rose, has also entered the race.
Manchin himself has not yet announced whether he is going to seek reelection in 2024.
His chief of staff, Lance West, is leaving the senator’s office this month to become chief lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, and that has fueled speculation — no pun intended — that Manchin might be considering life beyond the Senate.
Justice, who has won the governorship twice — once as a Democrat and the second time as a Republican — is extraordinarily popular inside West Virginia and a recent Morning Consult Poll rated him the sixth most popular governor in the country.
In an email to The Well News, Kercheval said the interest the race is generating two years ahead of voters going to the polls is unusual, and that Mooney’s “early” announcement was initially seen as his wanting to “get a jump on the rest of the field.”
“Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also wants to run, and he’s trying to discourage voters from paying attention to early filings,” the veteran newsman said.
What’s driving all this?
“West Virginia has gone deep red,” Kercheval wrote. “The Republicans have overwhelming majorities in the House of Delegates and the state Senate, and hold every office in the Board of Public Works (governor, treasurer, secretary of state, auditor, attorney general).
“At the same time, remember, Trump carried the state twice by 40+ points. Manchin, then, is the last Democrat standing and Republicans see him ripe for the picking,” he continued.
Despite his early gubernatorial victory as a Democrat, Justice today is seen as a solid Republican and a Trump supporter.
If he formally jumps into the race — and Kercheval believes he will — Justice would immediately become the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.
“Justice is 100% name recognition, and by the time of the election, he will have served two terms as governor — and he has pretty high approval ratings,” Kercheval told The Well News.
“Also, he’s pushing a bill this session that would cut income taxes in half over the next three years, so that will help him even more,” the newsman said.
But for all that, Kercheval said Manchin will be no easy out.
“For one thing, time is on his side, and there’s no reason for him to rush an announcement. It is not as though there’s a field of potential Democratic candidates waiting for Manchin to decide. When it comes to the Democrats, it’s either Manchin or no one, or at least no one who can win.”
Kercheval said Manchin could also benefit from the fact politics simply isn’t what it used to be.
“It used to be that all politics were local, and now they are all national, so the national narrative will drive a lot of it,” he wrote. “A big part of it will be ‘do you want someone who supports Biden or someone who supports Trump (or whoever the GOP nominee is)?’ But also, Manchin is generally well liked and a very good retail politician. You can never count him out.”
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