Governor Jim Justice is suffering of a lot of slings and arrows right now.
Almost daily, there are media reports about one or more of his family’s companies not paying bills, fines or taxes. Just last week, MetroNews’ Brad McElhinny reported that some of Justice’s personal property in Greenbrier County could be seized to satisfy a debt. Also last week a Justice company struck a last-minute deal in federal court on a payment plan for another debt.
Justice continues to be nagged by criticism that he does not live in Charleston and spends too much time away from the office. The Governor’s commitment to the job was brought into question during a court hearing last week in a legal fight over whether Justice should be forced to live in Kanawha County instead of Greenbrier County.
The simmering tension between Governor Justice and Senate President Mitch Carmichael boiled over into a public feud last week. Justice accused Carmichael of “imploding the Senate” in the fight over the education reform bill. Carmichael fired back that Justice is failing to show leadership on the issue.
During an appearance on Talkine Friday, Carmichael also refused to endorse Justice for re-election, so it’s no surprise that his name is noticeably absent from a list of prominent Republican sponsors of Justice’s re-election fundraiser June 20th in Charleston.
So it was a bad week for Justice, but the Governor does have a trump card—as in Donald Trump. Justice has built a strong relationship with the President. It was solidified when Justice flipped from the Democratic to the Republican party in August, 2017, just in time to share the stage with the President at a rally in Huntington.
Notably, the headliner for the Justice fundraiser later this month is the President’s son. Donald Trump, Jr., is the Governor’s buddy. Justice hosted Don Junior on a fishing trip in 2017.
“Don Jr. is a hunter and a great fisherman,” Justice said at the time. “We share a real love of the outdoors.” He added that “The Trumps care deeply about our people and I look forward to working with the White House to get federal resources here to help our state in a number of different areas.”
Having Trump on his side has to help Justice’s re-election effort, especially during the Primary. According to the most recent Morning Consult Poll, 85 percent of likely GOP Primary voters in West Virginia approve of Trump, and the President still has an approval rating among all West Virginia voters of 57 percent.
Political coattails are not always as strong as they used to be. Voters are far more willing to switch back and forth on their ballots. Still, Donald Trump provides the potential for a significant political lift for Justice.
And judging from how things have been going for the Governor lately, he needs it.