WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — After Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice confirmed his plan to run for governor Monday, supporters weighed in on why the 64-year-old billionaire is ready for his first political fight, one that could be vicious and personal.
State Sen. Ron Miller, while acknowledging the mudslinging could be more intense than what Justice is accustomed, said the new candidate has workable ideas for saving West Virginia’s economy.
“He’s a business man so he’s probably used to attacks himself, but when they attack your family and those around you, that’s something that’s more difficult,” Miller said. “What he said was right on target—we need to diversify our state all over the state. He understands the coal industry but also understands the need for diversification.”
Longtime friend Herbie Brooks estimated Justice knows what he is up against, but his love for the state of West Virginia outstrips any reservations.
“Why put himself through the mudslinging and all that? Because it’s for the people of West Virginia. I think he’ll be able to handle it well because he wants to do better for us,” Brooks said.
Justice, who’s estimated worth exceeds $1.6 billion, said the character-slamming nature of campaigns accomplishes nothing.
“I am not a proponent of the ugliness,” he said. “I will tell you the people that are in office today are trying, but they’re not achieving.”
Coincidentally, the state GOP went on the attack immediately, pointing out safety violations at Justice-owned coal mines and claiming he benefits from too many corporate tax breaks.
With state Sen. Jeff Kessler already announcing his candidacy on the Democratic side, did Justice—having never sought public office—consider running as a Republican, particularly in light of the state’s recent shift to the right?
“I am much more suited to be a Democrat,” he said, “because I truly want to be the person that is trying to take up for the little guy.”
Gearing up for what could be a battering campaign, Justice said being a politician doesn’t necessitate defaming opponents or making up statements that “are nowhere close to the truth.”