BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — As controversy continues to circle Gov. Jim Justice’s residency, Republican candidate Woody Thrasher is promoting himself to be a “full-time governor” should he win the 2020 race.
“I think that’s where success comes from, is somebody that really gives it their all and is there every single day, working with fellow republicans and democratic legislators, reaching out to the people across the state, finding what the issues are,” Thrasher said this week on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.”
Thrasher said it’s a “big job” running the state of West Virginia, one that requires 100 percent of a leader’s efforts.
“That is clearly not happening,” he said. “The governor is clearly not residing in the mansion, he’s clearly not showing up for work every day. His means of communication is a flip phone, and I think it’s fundamentally inadequate for the job.”
The Harrison County native said he has a long track record of showing a job his all.
In 1983, Thrasher and his father, Henry Thrasher, began Thrasher Engineering — now The Thrasher Group.
“I worked really hard every day, grew that company, and it’s now a company of 700 people with 11 offices in seven states,” he said.
That growth came from the Thrashers traveling to every small city, county, public service district across the state of West Virginia; the Thrasher Group has done projects in all 55 counties.
But Thrasher said he’s seen a significant decline in those same towns over the 35 years since the company started.
“I love West Virginia, I love the people, but it kind of breaks my heart to see the direction we’re going,” he said. “I’d like to give back to my state, and so I feel like running for governor is a worthwhile endeavor to undertake.”
In fact, Thrasher said he can only name three communities that are in better shape now than when he began his career.
But he said there’s a clear solution to that problem — economic development.
“That economic development needs to be a diversified economy base,” he said. “We’re a great resource extraction state. It’s carried us for years and years, but we have not diversified this state, so fundamentally I think we need to diversify our economy. Tourism is a great start, but there’s a whole lot of other areas that we could do.”
And Thrasher said he was working hard to implement diversification as Secretary of Commerce, until Justice ousted him from the position last year.
“Relative to commerce as far as economic development, I can assure you that this state was very much on track with substantial economic development and diversification of our economy, and unfortunately a lot of the efforts that we began have been stopped,” he said.
That’s only one item on a long list of areas Thrasher feels Justice has failed the people of West Virginia.
“We are fundamentally not receiving really good leadership at the highest level in the state. I think when you look across the board and you look at road issues, school issues — the very things that are fundamental to the functionality of the state, as well as a real vision for growth — I just don’t think this governor is providing the type of leadership that our citizens deserve,” he said.
With a Republican-led Senate and House and a Republican Governor, Thrasher said more progress should be happening, but the party isn’t united.
“When teammates squabble and don’t get along, teams lose, and I think that’s a good analogy for the state of West Virginia right now,” he said. “I think we have teammates that are not getting along, and unfortunately, I have to lay a majority of that blame at the governors feet, and I think West Virginians are losing.”
Thrasher’s not the only one who feels this way.
Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair recently called for Justice to resign. Blair has said he plans to introduce a resolution of no confidence when the Senate reconvenes.
Several county Executive Committees have already passed no confidence resolutions in Justice’s leadership abilities.
“It’s a really unfortunate situation,” Thrasher said. “It’s not the sort of publicity we want for our state, certainly not for our party, but I think it is reflective of an ever-growing and ever-accelerating concern about the governor’s ability to lead this state.”