Governor Justice’s road to reelection is hitting some bumps, and they are not just the potholes in the state roads that he has promised to fix. No, these bumps are coming from among the people he would expect to have his back in 2020—Republicans.
Not all Republicans, mind you, and maybe not even a substantial number of Justice’s own party. But make no mistake; there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction within the GOP. That disapproval took on a more formal expression this week.
Tuesday night, the Kanawha County Republican Party Executive Committee voted 19 to 4, with 3 members abstaining, to approve a resolution expressing “no confidence” in the Governor. Those who backed the resolution fault the Governor for not supporting key planks in the GOP platform.
As MetroNews’ Alex Thomas reported, “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.”
The resolution grew out of frustration from a few long-time party loyalists who believe Justice, who switched political parties in 2017 after being elected as a Democrat in 2016, should be doing more to solidify his Republican bona fides.
Party executive committee member Carolyn Stricklen, who is a former chair of the committee, said on Talkline Wednesday that they wanted to send a message to Justice. “We’re hoping that the Governor will look at this and realize that even though he has exhibited some random acts of Republicanism, he’s not being the leader of the Republicans.”
Justice is a devoted backer of President Trump, but these Republicans want to see the Governor more supportive of conservative issues in the state. “We’re looking to get this Governor to act more like a Republican, especially during this special session,” Stricklen said.
Lawmakers are in recess now, but they will return to Charleston in a few weeks to try again to pass an education reform bill. One Republican source told me Justice could repair the damage with the conservative wing of the party if he got behind SB 451, the controversial omnibus bill that triggered a two-day teacher strike and eventually died during the regular session.
The political question here is whether the Kanawha County Republican Party Executive Committee’s resolution is just a one-off by a small group of disgruntled Republicans or representative of a broader dissatisfaction within the GOP. Stricklen says it’s the latter.
“I believe it’s the tip of the iceberg based on some of the discussions I’ve had with other people,” she told me.
If she’s right, then just like the roads, Justice has some repair work to do, only this time the patching is within his own party.