CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A year ago Friday, Gov. Jim Justice stood with President Donald Trump at a rally in Huntington and announced he was switching his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

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Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson

“With lots of prayers and lots of thoughts, today I tell you as West Virginians I can’t help you any more being a Democratic governor,” Justice announced to cheers. “So tomorrow, I will be changing my registration to Republican.”

State Senate President Mitch Carmichael said Friday it’s worked out just fine.

Carmichael used the word “fanatically” during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” Friday calling West Virginia’s economy “the comeback kid.”

“Wage rates are up in West Virginia more than any other state in the nation. Unemployment has dropped more than any other state in the nation. Our hotel occupancy rates are up, more jobs, more revenue is coming into the state,” Carmichael said. “The Republican legislature has done the job that the people have elected us to do.”

Carmichael said Justice is part of the team that is moving the state forward.

“He’s got great vision for our state. He has worked very hard to move our state in the right direction,” he said. “It’s a good moment to recognize the governor of West Virginia switched parties to become a Republican one year ago today and the state’s been on a positive trajectory ever since.”

Justice’s switch brought criticism from the West Virginia Democratic Party.

“Jim Justice said he became a Democrat because Democrats care about people,” Democratic chairwoman Belinda Biafore responded a year ago. “I think we can all guess just who he cares about by his decision today and it’s not the people of West Virginia.

“During his campaign for governor, Jim Justice said he would never lie to the public; he said he would never be a politician and he would definitely be a full-time governor. None of those promises were kept.”

Carmichael, who was at that Huntington rally, said he gives Justice a lot of credit for making the switch.

“It takes a lot of courage to finally realize that the party you are in doesn’t represent the values, the goals and the aspirations of your fellow West Virginians,” Carmichael said.

Trump also liked the switch.

“Having Big Jim as a Republican is such an honor,” Trump said to the crowd. “Fantastic man, fantastic guy.”

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