WASHINGTON, D.C. — First District Congressman David McKinley says he’s been thinking about running for governor but will stay out of the race as long as Gov. Jim Justice continues toward his re-election bid.
“I’ve spoken with Jim Justice extensively about this,” McKinley said during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” on Friday. “If it’s an open seat we’re going to look at it seriously but it’s not an open seat right now.”
Justice, who switched his political party registration from Democrat to Republican in 2017, announced earlier this year that he plans on seeking a second term. McKinley said Justice has his support.
“Jim knows this. We’ve had good conversations about it,” McKinley said. “I would hope we would be able to have further conversations but it’s up to him. If he’s going to be on the ticket I’m going to support him.”
Testing the waters for a gubernatorial run isn’t new for McKinley. He did so before the 2016 election only to seek re-election to Congress.
“We’re giving that a lot of consideration,” McKinley told MetroNews in March 2015. “Just a lot of facts have to come into play, (like) whether we can be of more service in the federal government or back here at the state. We don’t know.”
Three months later, in June 2015, McKinley announced he would not run for governor, citing his continued efforts in the “war against coal.”
“People just have to understand, hopefully they will, the problem of the 2,268 (recently announced miner layoffs) or the 10,800 (miner layoffs in recent years) are the casualties of a war on coal. That war on coal didn’t originate in Charleston, it came from the White House and that’s where I think I can serve best,” McKinley said at the time.
McKinley’s decision opened the door for then state Senate President Bill Cole to run as the Republican candidate.
In the 1996 Republican gubernatorial primary election, Cecil Underwood beat McKinley and Jon McBride in the Republican primary election. Underwood went on to win the November general election that year.
Justice, former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and former House of Delegates member Mike Folk are the Republicans who have already announced gubernatorial campaigns for next year’s election.
McKinley, a Wheeling native, began his fifth term in the U.S. House in January.