Randy Yohe Published

Justice Begins Campaign For U.S. Senate

Large man raises arms, speaking to a crowd and dressed in formal attire.
Gov. Jim Justice
Walter Scriptunas II/AP Photo

Thursday afternoon at his family’s Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, with Babydog by his side, Gov. Jim Justice announced he is running for the United States Senate from West Virginia. 

Justice is term-limited and cannot run for a third term as governor. He has been speculating about this run for months. He ran for governor in 2016 as a Democrat but switched parties roughly six months into his first term at a rally held by former President Donald Trump in Huntington. 

Republican U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, W.Va., and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina introduced Justice by saying he’s needed in Washington to help return the U.S. Senate to a Republican majority. Capito spoke of her partnership with Justice.

“We’ve worked on economic development,” Capito said. “We’ve worked on the COVID response together. We worked on broadband deployment. I think we’re really gonna make a good pair in Washington.”

Graham said he came to this announcement because Justice is needed in the U.S. Senate.

“We need help in Washington,” Graham said. “We need a winner. We need somebody who can win in a general election, a conservative who can move the ball forward in Washington, D.C.”

Justice opened his remarks by giving numerous reasons the Biden Administration is going down the wrong path. He touted his six-year record in West Virginia with tax cuts, an abortion ban, campus carry, school choice and huge budget surpluses. He said he will take that work ethic, wrapped in conservative values, to Capitol Hill. 

“Too many politicians today want something for them,” Justice said. “I’ve never wanted anything. How in the world do you think we’re perceived with our allies? I mean, look what happened in Afghanistan? Look what’s going on at the border. Look what’s going on with inflation. Look what’s going on with energy. It’s just all over the park. We’re gonna have to do something about it.”

Justice’s key competitor in the Republican Primary will be U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney. Both men have been endorsed in previous elections by former President Donald Trump. West Virginia Republican Party Chair Elgine McArdle said a Trump endorsement could be key. 

“It could be important, especially in the state of West Virginia,” McArdle said. “West Virginia went heavily for President Trump in the last election, and we are very, very red at this point. I think President Trump’s influence, certainly in West Virginia, is strong. And I think that will potentially play a big role in the primary.”

The West Virginia Democratic Party Chair is Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha. He said a Justice/Mooney primary will be a messy battle, with both candidates damaged going into the general election.

“On one hand, you have a congressman who is still under a Congressional Ethics probe for misuse of campaign funds that he’s appeared to spend on himself,” Pushkin said. “And on the other side, you have a governor who has had scandal with the State Police, a totally toxic culture at the DHHR, our prisons are under a state of emergency because they’re so understaffed that he’s had to call in the National Guard. They will be damaged,”

The state’s other incumbent U.S. senator is Democrat Joe Manchin, who said he’ll announce his election plans in December. He faced stiff opposition in his last election from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, but Morrisey has declared his intention to run for governor. 

In deeply red West Virginia, political observers believe Manchin’s seat is in play to flip Republican, with the potential to shift control of the evenly divided chamber away from Democrats.

On his website, Manchin said any race he runs, he will win.

“I am laser focused on doing the job West Virginians elected me to do,” Manchin said. “Lowering healthcare costs, protecting Social Security and Medicare, shoring up American energy security and getting our fiscal house in order. But make no mistake, I will win any race I enter.”

Coal miner and self-described “ultra-MAGA” political outsider Chris Rose has also announced a run for the seat. 

Justice closed his announcement remarks by bringing his extended family on stage, shy grandson and all, and quoting one of his father’s homespun sayings. 

“Any frog that is not proud of their own pond isn’t much of a frog,” Justice said. “Just know this, I’m certain of this family, me and even Babydog that we’re dang proud of the United States of America and this great state.”

The West Virginia Primary Election is a little more than a year away.