West Virginia Governor Jim Justice will reportedly announce he is changing his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican during a rally with President Donald Trump tonight, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, President Trump announced that at his West Virginia rally tonight, there will be a major announcement, and the state’s governor changing parties is reportedly what he was referring to.
So ahead of this Trump rally, here’s a look at West Virginia Governor Jim Justice.
1. He Is a Billionaire Businessman Who Owns Over 70 Coal Mines
Before becoming the state’s governor, Jim Justice was a businessman, and he has an estimated net worth of $1.59 billion, according to Forbes.
In the 1970s, Jim Justice entered the family business and founded Bluestone Farms. In the 1990s, he became president of Bluestone Industries and Bluestone Coal Corporation, inheriting the company after the death of his father. According to NPR, Justice owns over 70 active mines in five states. He also owns the Greenbrier Resort, which is located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
In 2014, NPR found that Justice’s mines owed more than $2 million in overdue fines and that his mines had committed almost 4,000 violations. In addition, according to Politico, many of Justice’s mines owed millions of dollars in property taxes, and two companies sued one of Justice’s properties for unpaid work. This business record is something that Justice’s opponent used during the 2016 election, much like Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump’s business record in the presidential election.
“Jim Justice is a coal operator, but he’s not a coal operator acting in the best interest of West Virginia,” Kent Gates, spokesperson for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole, told Politico. “His legacy of unpaid bills is documented across the land.”
2. He Was Elected in 2016 & Had No Prior Political Experience
Like Donald Trump, Jim Justice ran in the 2016 election as a businessman outsider with no experience in political office. In the general election, Justice ran against Republican Bill Cole, a member of the West Virginia Senate. Justice ultimately won with 49.1 percent of the vote compared to Bill Cole’s 42 percent.
While they elected a Democratic governor, West Virginia overwhelmingly went for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, with Trump capturing 68 percent of the vote in the state compared to Hillary Clinton’s 26.4 percent. Both of these results were fairly in line with what the polls showed, and as expected, Justice’s coal experience was a major asset on November 8th.
When asked about comparisons between himself and Donald Trump, Jim Justice once said, “Donald is probably a little bit more egotistical than I am,” according to Ozy.
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Since he has taken office, Jim Justice has been an unconventional governor. In April, to make a point about the state’s budget, Justice brought an actual pile of bull manure to the state’s capital.
“What we have is nothing more than bunch of political bull you-know-what,” Justice said,
3. He Was a Republican Before 2015
Although a prominent Democratic politician changing his party affiliation sounds like quite a dramatic development at first, it is less so when you realize that Justice has only been a Democrat for two years.
After all, Justice changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in February 2015, a few months before he launched his campaign for president, according to Politico.
Since he became governor of West Virginia, some Republicans in the state have felt that he has acted more like a Republican than a Democrat.
“He did an absolute U-turn,” Mitch Carmichael, the Republican president of the West Virginia State Senate, told The New York Times. “I think he’s more Republican in his philosophies. Where he has gotten away from that a little bit is his tax-and-spend policies.”
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In a gubernatorial debate, Justice said that he voted for John McCain for president in 2008 and Mitt Romney for president in 2012. He also said that claims that he is a supporter of Barack Obama are “complete dog snot,” according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
“Why in the world would I ever contribute to Obama when he’s taken millions of dollars away from my family’s coal business and the hardworking coal miners of West Virginia?” Justice said during this debate.
Before becoming a Republican, Justice was an independent, according to The Washington Post.
4. He Did Not Support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Election
While he did not endorse Donald Trump, Jim Justice last year was a critic of Hillary Clinton, saying that even though he is a Democrat, he can’t vote for her.
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“The reason I can’t be is her position on coal is diametrically, completely wrong in many, many different ways,” Justice said in August 2016, according to Politico.
Hillary Clinton famously said during a Democratic debate that she was going to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” She later said that she misspoke.
“What I was saying is that the way things are going now, we will continue to lose jobs,” Clinton said, according to Yahoo. “That’s what I meant to say.”
After the November election, Jim Justice said that he spoke on the phone with President-elect Donald Trump about putting coal miners back to work.
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“It’s an exciting day for West Virginia because we now have a pathway to the White House and a president-elect who is totally committed to putting our coal miners back to work,” Justice said at the time, according to WCHS. “President-elect Trump made it clear that he won’t forget about West Virginia when it comes to our nation’s energy policies. I will work closely with the President-elect and his administration on clean coal technology, rolling back the job-killing EPA regulations on coal, and growing West Virginia’s other job opportunities.”
According to The New York Times, Justice “is said to have friendly relationships with some members of Mr. Trump’s family.”
5. He Is Not Convinced That Climate Change Is Affected by Human Activity
Jim Justice breaks from his party on a number of key issues, but the biggest one is climate change, as he does not believe that climate change is being caused by human activity.
“Until we have really accurate data to prove (that humans contribute) I don’t think we need to blow our legs off on a concept,” Justice said during an interview with The Register Herald. “…I believe there’s an awful lot of scientist that say, ‘no, no, no, this is just smoke and mirrors.’ I welcome the discussion, but I don’t know, I just don’t know.”
Governor Justice and President Donald Trump have this in common. Trump famously said in 2012 that the concept of global warming was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
Trump also announced in June that he would be pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement.
“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” Trump said at the time. “The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement — they went wild; they were so happy — for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.”