Republican race for governor is powered by personal loans so far

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Republican side of West Virginia’s race for governor is running along on big personal loans by the candidates.

Gov. Jim Justice’s re-election campaign raised $13,450 in donations for the most recent filing period, but Justice loaned $194,000 to his own campaign. His new campaign manager said Justice intentionally focused on other matters aside from fundraising in recent weeks but will have enough resources to compete for re-election.

Republican challenger Woody Thrasher reported $254,330 in fundraising for the most recent period, with Thrasher loaning his campaign another $285,000.

And another Republican running for governor, former Delegate Mike Folk, loaned his campaign $90,000.

The 3rd Quarter reports that were due by Monday provide a look at the relative financial health of the campaigns, as well as what resources they have at their disposal.

Mike Folk

Folk said putting up $90,000 of his own money is an indication that he is taking his own campaign seriously.

“It’s mine, and I’m serious,” he stated. “I am the only real Republican in the race. Justice and Thrasher are two sides of the same coin. No matter how much money they spend, they are both hogs at the Charleston trough.”

Folk also received $8,484 in contributions during the period. That brings his campaign’s cash on hand to $103,542.

Woody Thrasher

Thrasher, the former state Commerce Secretary under Justice, reported $254,330 in contributions for the period and $285,000 in loans to his own campaign.

His fundraising was largely on the strength of several fundraising events, including one at his company’s headquarters that generated $174,511.55 in late August, another in Bridgeport in mid-August that generated $27,805 and another in Charleston at the end of September that generated $15,465.

Thrasher reported $12,080 cash on hand at the end of the filing period.

“I’m humbled by the broad support from across West Virginia from those who support our efforts to move this state forward. The backing we’ve gotten all along the campaign trail has been overwhelming,” Thrasher stated.

“Folks desperately want a full-time governor who shares their values. Every day I hear from more West Virginians looking for change and leadership from a governor who comes to work.”

Jim Justice

Justice, the incumbent known as West Virginia’s wealthiest man, reported $13,450 in contributions and loaned his campaign $194,000.

“Governor Justice intentionally did not spend time fundraising this past quarter and remains focused on improving the economy, fixing the roads and improving the schools. The governor is committed to investing the resources necessary to win this campaign,” stated Roman Stauffer, campaign manager for Justice.

Until the end of last month, the Justice campaign manager had been Mike Lukach, who worked in 2016 in several states for the Trump campaign. Stauffer is taking over those duties.

Justice’s campaign reported $3,517 cash on hand at the end of the filing period.

Two of Justice’s largest donations — $2,800 for the primary and another $2,800 targeted toward the General Election — came from the Murray Energy Political Action Committee. Murray Energy last week announced loan forgiveness from its major creditors, signaling financial distress and potential reorganization for the coal company.

Another $2,800 donation came from Elmer Coppoolse, chief operating officer of The Greenbrier, which is owned by Justice’s family.

The Justice campaign reported giving back a $2,800 donation from the First Energy Political Action Committee. The return was registered on July 5.

A couple of weeks after that, Justice faced questions over a bill meant to provide tax relief for bankrupt First Energy’s Pleasants Power Station. First Energy and Bluestone Energy Sales, one of Justice’s companies, were in a $3 million court dispute over a final payout on a coal deal.

Justice’s most recent campaign finance report lists $93,757 in unpaid bills.

The oldest, dating back to April, are debt to Encore Leasing, a Justice-owned company. Encore Leasing owns aircraft and is owed $19,123, an amount that was also reflected in the Justice campaign’s 2nd quarter report.

More campaign debt is listed to The Greenbrier, owned by the Justice family.

Lukach, the departing campaign manager, is owed payment on expenses like mileage, office supplies and business cards.

The biggest unpaid expense, $45,000 total, is monthly consulting fees to FP1 Strategies, a Beltway firm. Its sister company, PLUS Communications, has been providing public relations work for the Justice Companies.

There was less action Monday with campaign filings on the Democratic side of the gubernatorial race.

A filing by Stephen Smith, who led all fundraisers in the governor’s race during the last reporting period, had not yet appeared late Monday afternoon. Smith, while campaigning for governor, was still listed as “undeclared” for any particular race on the Secretary of State’s website.

Democrat Jody Murphy was listed with negative $251 cash on hand.

State Senator Ron Stollings, who just announced for the race last week, was not listed with any fundraising yet.

Several other listed candidates do not report any money in their campaign accounts.

Those include Quentin Gerard Caldwell, Shelby Jane Fitzhugh, Rebecca Mareta Henderson, David Sartin, Charles R. Sheedy Sr., Cecil Silva, Larry Trent and Edwin Ray Vanover.

Erika Kolenich, a Buckhannon lawyer running as a libertarian, has $1,011 in her campaign account. She raised $407 this most recent filing period.

The next campaign finance filing period deadline is Dec. 31.

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