I’ve known Nick Casey for a couple of decades, interviewed him probably more than a hundred times, talked to him casually and on background frequently, and I’ve only heard him angry twice.
Once came in 2014 when he was the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District seat and Republican opponent Alex Mooney accused Casey of being soft on abortion. Casey, a devout Catholic, was livid.
The second time was yesterday when Casey appeared on MetroNews Talkline. It had been exactly one week since he was fired by Gov. Jim Justice as his Chief of Staff. Casey was still chafing over the dismissal.
“The governor became a political hack as far as I’m concerned and he went after me because I’m a Democrat,” Casey said. “He didn’t live up to what he told me he wanted to do.”
According to Casey, he and the governor discussed the party switch and Justice asked him to stay on, despite the fact that Casey is a lifelong Democrat and former chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Casey said he agreed to stay: “I didn’t take this job because I’m a Republican or a Democrat, but because I’m a West Virginian.”
Because of that discussion, Casey said his firing — which was done over the phone while Casey and his wife were out of town celebrating their wedding anniversary — was “very unexpected.” Casey said Justice told him he was too Democratic and he should clear out his office by Wednesday.
Casey believes Republicans, who prompted Justice to switch parties, “got in his head” and convinced him that Casey had to go.
Meanwhile, Justice has spun the firing differently.
The governor’s initial release on Aug.14 didn’t say Casey was fired, only that he would “no longer serve as the Governor’s Chief of Staff.” In the release, Justice praised Casey, but said, “I’ve given this a lot of thought and going forward, I just didn’t see any pathway where it would work out.”
During a Saturday night interview with Brad McElhinny of MetroNews, Justice added, “The entire reason (for the firing) there is just one thing and one thing alone; Nick’s home life, his home; his wife is a rock-solid Democrat. I respect that completely. It makes life a little tougher.”
Asked about that yesterday, Casey disputed that the home front was going to be an issue… until now.
“My wife’s going to be a problem for him, maybe, but not for me,” Casey said. Meanwhile, state Democratic Party Chair Belinda Biafore added, “First of all, the blame placing here is outlandish. No one should ever be fired because of who they are married to.”
But forget the politics for a minute. While Justice focuses on the big picture, Casey was riding herd on much of the day-to-day, hour-to-hour operations of the Administration. Those responsibilities now fall to new Chief of Staff Mike Hall.
One of Hall’s first calls should be to Nick Casey to try to figure out just how the place operates and perhaps gain some additional insight into his new boss.