Several reports out of West Virginia said that on May 11, billionaire Jim Justice, who made his fortune on selling much of his coal holdings a few years ago to a Russian commodities company, Mechel OAO, has declared himself as a candidate for governor of West Virginia.
Justice used some of the money from selling certain coal holdings, which he recently bought back at a much discounted price, to buy the historic Greenbrier Resort in southern West Virginia. He controls a number of coal companies in Central Appalachia through a company called Southern Coal.
“I tell you there’s something really, really wrong when our families in this state are fragmented all to pieces—and they are. And why?” Justice asked during his announcement. “Because they can’t find a job. The kids are all gone because they can’t find a job.”
The 64-year-old Justice said he would be a non-politician who isn’t worried about staying in office. He said he will run as a Democrat. The current governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, is also a Democrat. Tomblin is limited to two terms in office and can’t run again in 2016. Democrats used to dominate the state, but Republicans have achieved parity in recent years.
Justice becomes the second Democrat to enter the governor’s race. West Virginia Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler has started a pre-candidacy campaign account to raise funds for the 2016 Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Said Kessler in a statement about Justice: “I’m happy that he has finally decided to join the Democratic Party. But just because he’s finally joined the congregation doesn’t mean he can immediately become our minister. The contrast between me and Jim are clear, and over the next year it will become very clear that I am the real Democrat in the Democratic primary.”
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin also has been mentioned as a possible Democratic contender. Among Republicans, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, U.S. Rep. David McKinley and Senate President Bill Cole have indicated that they are considering a gubernatorial run.