West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who was elected last year as a Democrat, announced Thursday that he will change political parties and become a Republican.
“Let me just say this to you as bluntly as I can say it, West Virginia. At the altar when we had it done, like it or not like it, but the Democrats walked away from me,” Justice said during a rally with President Trump in Huntington, W.Va.
“Now today I would tell you with lots of prayers and lots of thinking, today I tell you as West Virginians, I can’t help you any more being a Democrat governor,” he continued. “So tomorrow I will be changing my registration to Republican.”
Justice, a coal magnate who is the wealthiest man in West Virginia, was first elected to office last year. He was wooed by both Republicans and Democrats but ultimately ran as a Democrat in the state’s 2016 gubernatorial race. Still, he never backed the party’s presidential nominee, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE.
Trump won West Virginia in the presidential election by 42 points — his largest margin of victory over Clinton in any state.
Justice’s party switch is a blow for the Democratic Governors Association, which spent more than $1 million in an effort to get him elected last year, while the Republican Governors Association spent $3.7 million backing his GOP rival.
Trump argued Thursday evening during the rally that the governor's party switch reinforced that his administration's agenda rose above political parties. Meanwhile, Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Capito grills EPA nominee on '#ResistCapitalism' tweet GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE (R-W.Va.) welcomed Justice to the GOP, saying she looked forward to him advocating mutual goals.
"The Republican Party represents the future of West Virginia. Today, Governor Justice joins me and other Republican leaders in Congress and at the state level who stand for policies that will improve the lives of West Virginians. As the lead Republican in West Virginia, I stand ready to work with him to grow the economy, fight for energy jobs, and create a stronger West Virginia," she said.
— Updated: 8:16 p.m.