West Virginia governor announces plan to switch parties

Democratic Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia announced his plans to change his political party affiliation and join the GOP at a rally in Huntington with President Donald Trump on Thursday night.

“Today I will tell you as West Virginians, I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor,” Justice said at the rally. “So tomorrow, I will be changing my registration to Republican.”

The New York Times first reported Justice’s plans to switch parties.

Earlier Thursday, Trump teased that there would be a “very big announcement” this evening in West Virginia, a state that went heavily Republican in the 2016 elections.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said on Thursday he had no heads up about what the content of the announcement was, but said he hoped it would be related to the opioid crisis or a jobs announcement.

“We’re hoping to see good news,” Manchin said.

This isn’t the first time Justice has switched parties — he was previously an independent and a Republican up until 2015 when he ran for governor as a Democrat. However, this move could indicate a bigger shift in the state.

Justice’s decision comes as Democratic senator Manchin is up for re-election in 2018. With Justice’s move, Manchin will become West Virginia’s only statewide elected Democrat.

In Justice’s latest State of the State address, the governor mentioned Trump five times, and said he was good friends with the Trump family.

If Justice moves across the aisle as reported, it would increase the advantage of Republican governors over Democrats, to 34 to 15.

DGA released the following statement regarding West Virginia Governor Jim Justice: 

“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.”