Kessler endorses Justice in West Virginia gubernatorial race

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Democratic nominee for governor in West Virginia is adding a former political rival to his list of endorsements ahead of the Nov. 8 general election.

On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 02) endorsed Jim Justice, the businessman and owner of The Greenbrier Resort who beat him and former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin in the May primary election.

“I’m a Democrat,” Kessler said of his endorsement of Justice on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” “I’ve pledged to commit and support the ticket from the courthouse to the White House.”

Before the primary, though, Kessler spent months on the campaign trail criticizing Justice, a newcomer to politics and former Republican.

“I had some philosophical or some policy differences with Jim during the campaign, but we’re all in this together at the end of the day. That’s behind us. I support the (Democratic) ticket,” Kessler said.

Kessler sees Justice as a better choice than Senate President Bill Cole (R-Mercer, 06), the Republican gubernatorial candidate, for many reasons.

During this year’s Regular Legislative Session, “You had to have been blind if you didn’t see me fighting against right to work legislation and the prevailing wage repeal and a lot of the tort reform that was going on, the RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act),” Kessler said of¬†priority legislative proposals among Republican legislative leaders.

“I do believe that Jim will be much more labor friendly and that’s a constituency that I’ve always fought for and will continue to fight for in whatever capacity.”

In addition to Justice and Cole, Libertarian David Moran and Charlotte Pritt with the Mountain Party are in the gubernatorial race.

Kessler will be helping with the Justice campaign in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle, according to campaign officials.

“He’s never forgotten where he came from and that means a lot to me,” Justice said of Kessler in the campaign statement.

As of Friday, there had been no public endorsement of Justice from Goodwin.

Justice and Cole are scheduled to participate in two debates in October.

The West Virginia Press Association hosts the first debate on Oct. 4 at Charleston’s Clay Center. The second debate from the West Broadcasters Association follows on Oct. 11 at the same location.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election is Oct. 18. Early voting begins on Oct. 26.

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