CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair says Gov. Jim Justice should resign.
“I’m tired of covering for this man,” said Blair, R-Berkeley.
Blair and Justice are in the same party since Justice changed his registration to Republican two summers ago at a rally in Huntington for President Donald Trump.
But the relationship between the governor and Senate Republicans has become particularly strained in recent weeks because of an education reform proposal.
An omnibus bill backed by Senate Republicans includes charter schools and anti-teachers strike provisions that concern the governor. He described his reservations on the second day of the Senate’s resumption of a special session.
Blair said the governor’s remarks that day were the tipping point for him.
Justice, who is also a basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School, had spoken with the greatest detail about an aspect of the bill that would cancel extracurricular activities in the event of a strike.
“I finally realized he was more concerned about coaching basketball than he is taking care of the state of West Virginia,” Blair said.
Asked for response to Blair’s comments, Justice campaign manager Mike Lukach questioned the point of view of Blair and other Senate leaders.
“It’s no surprise that career politicians are upset that the Governor is trying to drain the Charleston swamp,” Lukach stated. “Governor Justice is busy every day working with President Trump to create jobs for West Virginians, fix our roads and protect the right to life and 2nd Amendment.”
The fraying relationship between the governor and the Senate majority flowed into last week and started to blow up.
Justice’s campaign put out an invitation to a fundraiser featuring Donald Trump Jr., whom the governor has described as a friend.
The invitation did not include Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson.
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) June 7, 2019
Lukach of the Justice campaign told Ogden newspapers why Carmichael wouldn’t be there.
“Senator Carmichael wasn’t invited because he isn’t aligned with the Governor AND the President on some critical issues,” Lukach said in a statement. “Those who’ll be packing the room, Don Jr. included, are supportive of the Justice/Trump policies that have helped finally turn West Virginia around.”
Carmichael went on MetroNews “Talkline” and said he doesn’t want to appear in support of Justice’s re-election campaign.
“There would be no way I would attend an event like this,” Carmichael said Friday. “I’m not one that believes who should want four more years of this type of leadership — or lack of leadership — at the governor’s mansion.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) June 7, 2019
Senator Randy Smith, R-Tucker, then chimed in on Twitter. Smith has been upset about, among other issues, the Justice administration’s performance on roads.
Smith cast doubt on attendance at the fundraiser.
Why our Republican elected officials would even want to be anywhere near this guy is beyond me.
— Randy E. Smith (@RandyESmithWV) June 8, 2019
If Justice would leave before completing his full term, the Senate president would serve it out. Blair said that was not a factor in his recent remarks.
Blair, who has sometimes been critical of the Governor’s Office on single issues, fired a broad shot in print over the weekend. His own re-election committee sponsored an essay in local publications headlined “Justice is neither a Democrat or a Republican — He’s a Narcissistic Opportunist.”
In that, Blair stated, “For months, everyone has been talking about it, but now I am clearly and loudly saying it: Jim Justice is an embarrassment to our state and should resign and try to attend to his family business obligations.”.
Here’s Senator Blair’s opening shot pic.twitter.com/eWGeAiFN9L
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) June 10, 2019
On “Talkline” today, Blair said he has long been troubled by Justice’s financial issues as well as other controversies and concerns.
“This isn’t just about the Student Success Act. I’ve been dealing with him about sports betting, flood relief, the roads issue,” Blair said.
He added, “It comes to the point where it’s a breaking point, and it took place the other day when the governor is coming out and attacking the Senate president and the Senate GOP.”
When the Senate resumes the special session again, Blair said he would push for a resolution of no confidence.
“I know for a fact that I am not alone on this,” Blair said.
Moments after that, Blair got a social media response from a Republican member of the House of Delegates.
— Jordan Hill (@DelegateHill) June 10, 2019