West Virginia Governor Jim Justice is having a very bad week.
The Harrison County Republican Party Executive Committee voted Monday in favor of a resolution expressing “no confidence” in Justice. The action followed a no-confidence vote by the Kanawha County GOP Executive Committee last week.
The lack of support among some of the GOP faithful is rooted in the belief that Justice, who flipped from the Democratic to the Republican Party in 2017, is failing to support key elements of the party platform, including school choice and right-to-work.
Tuesday, Forbes Magazine posted a scathing piece on Justice’s inability or refusal to pay bills and taxes. Forbes did not break any new ground—media in West Virginia have been reporting on the non-payment issue for several years—but the article, which in the headline called Justice a “Deadbeat Billionaire,” was deeply embarrassing.
On the very same day, MetroNews reporter Brad McElhinny broke the story about a federal investigation. “A federal subpoena has commanded the state Department of Commerce to provide a range of records about The Greenbrier, The Greenbrier Classic PGA golf tournament and Old White Charities, a non-profit arm of the resort. Governor Jim Justice and his family own The Greenbrier and run their golf tournament and the charitable organization.”
Wednesday, Justice went to Fayetteville to announce a $1.5 million federal grant for two community water systems. Normally, that would be a soft event that garners positive media coverage. However, reporters peppered Justice with questions about the investigation.
To his credit, Justice answered the questions rather than resorting to “no comment” or dismissing the investigation as a “witch hunt.” Justice said, “You’ve got to be respectful to anybody who wants to investigate anything because I don’t have anything whatsoever to hide.”
It’s important to keep in mind that a subpoena is a request for information as part of an investigation. It is not evidence of wrongdoing and may not lead anywhere. Unfortunately for the Governor, it looks bad, and depending on what federal investigators learn, the outcome could, in fact, be bad for Justice.
Meanwhile, his list of political opponents is growing. There are already three individuals who have filed pre-candidacy papers with the Secretary of State’s Office to run in the Republican Primary for Governor in 2020, including former Berkeley County Delegate Mike Folk. Businessman Woody Thrasher, who Justice pushed out as Commerce Secretary last year, is expected to file next week.
Also, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin is in full attack mode on Justice. He frequently criticizes Justice for commuting to work from Greenbrier County. Manchin has even floated the idea of running for Governor again in 2020.
Politicians must have thick skin, and that’s not one of Justice’s characteristics. Of course, he would argue that he’s not a politician. Regardless, he is in the political arena where there is a constant accounting of successes and failures.
Barring some unexpected development, this is one of the worst weeks for Jim Justice since assuming the governorship.