CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee on Tuesday passed a resolution expressing no confidence in Gov. Jim Justice, who announced earlier this year he is running for re-election.
The measure, taken up in an executive session during the committee’s meeting, criticized Justice’s positions on education — including his opposition to charter schools and other “broad education reforms” —and right-to-work legislation, as well as the state’s current transportation issues. According to the resolution, Justice’s positions contradict the party’s platform, with the committee adding the governor has appointed Democrats to judgeships and other positions.
“The Kanawha County, West Virginia, Republican Executive Committee votes to express no confidence in the current Governor of West Virginia, James Justice,” the measure concludes.
Kanawha County, in addition to being the most populous county in West Virginia, has the most registered Republican voters at more than 37,000 individuals, second to the county’s nearly 53,000 registered Democrats.
Justice ran for governor in the 2016 election as a Democrat but announced his switch to the Republican Party in August 2017 at a Huntington rally with President Donald Trump. He pointed to Democrats’ lack of support for his proposals during that year’s legislative session as a reason for the change.
“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 said. “So tomorrow, I will be changing my registration to Republican.”
The governor kicked off his re-election bid in January, saying West Virginia has improved under his leadership yet more needs to happen.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, the committee accepted multiple new members who could vote on the resolution. The group debated the motion for around an hour before the meeting adjourned.
Tresa Howell, the chairwoman of the Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee, told MetroNews allowing new members secured the resolution’s passage.
“You had a few key members on the committee that worked to prepare this resolution. They worked to get committee members appointed to the committee today to have those votes to pass the resolution against the governor,” she said. “Since those positions are open, you can come in and be appointed in those spots from the current elected committee members that are already on the Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee.”
Howell, who said she only votes on resolutions if there is a tie, added the motion came as a complete surprise to her.
“Yes, we do have a Republican platform that we are supposed to go by,” she said. “The whole issue is there are many things and many ways that people vote that does not completely stand with our platform.”
Carolyn Stricklen, the former county chairwoman, pushed the measure.
“While we appreciate Governor Justice’s support of President Donald Trump, it is not enough to make up for the fact that he was not elected as a Republican and he has not governed as a Republican,” she said in a statement. “Education and transportation are the two biggest issues in the state right now, and Jim Justice has not led as a Republican on either issue. Republicans support education reform. Republicans also want reforms made to the Department of Transportation, not just replacing one Democrat with another Democrat to lead it.”
Stricklen also claimed many Republican frustrations are related to Justice’s opposition to education overhaul efforts, including charter schools.
“School choice is part of the Republican Party platform. Jim Justice does not support school choice. The State Senate has passed an excellent comprehensive reform bill that needs the support of a Republican Governor,” she added.
“Another part of our party platform is paycheck protection and right-to-work. For years, the unions have controlled the Democratic Party and held our worker’s hard earned money and workplace freedom hostage. Jim Justice does not support these much needed reforms, as a good Republican Governor should.”
Justice said before this year’s legislative session he opposed charter schools, and he later opposed the Senate’s omnibus education bill, which included starting charter schools in the state in addition to paycheck protection.
West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter could not be reached for comment. Howell said the roll call on the resolution will be released Wednesday.