Gov. Justice holds fourth campaign town hall

WVU PROUD — Former West Virginia University head football coach Don Nehlen, left, introduces Gov. Jim Justice at a town hall in Morgantown Monday. -- Steven Allen Adams

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice took his re-election effort on the road Monday to Morgantown for his fourth town hall event.

The Justice campaign held its town hall at the Morgantown Marriott Monday evening, providing dinner for the nearly 200 attendees who came to hear the Democrat-turned-Republican talk about his accomplishments during his first term of office.

“We have the opportunity and the most potential than you can possibly imagine today,” Justice said. “We are changing our image like crazy…now we’re becoming the diamond in the rough that everyone missed.”

The Morgantown event was the fourth campaign town hall for Justice, who won election to the governor’s seat as a Democrat but switched to Republican in August 2017 at the behest of President Donald Trump. Justice held two town halls in Raleigh and Mercer counties June 13, and a town hall in Wood County Sept. 4.

Justice was introduced by former West Virginia University head football coach Don Nehlen. As long-time friends and coaches (Justice coaches high school basketball at Greenbrier East High School), Nehlen said Justice was the perfect choice in 2016 to lead the state out of the deficit it was in in 2017 and should get a second term.

“Let me tell you this about Jim Justice: I’ve never met a man as sincere and as honest as Jim Justice,” Nehlen said. “I’ve never met a man that loves the State of West Virginia like he loves the State of West Virginia and he loves everybody.”

Justice is using the town halls to get the message out about all the good things that have happened to the state during his term. Justice pointed to increased tourism spending in the state; reforms in public safety resulting in pay raises for correctional officers and the first State Police graduating classes since 2015; his pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment support and stance against sanctuary cities; and supporting the recent education omnibus which included the second of two 5 percent pay raises for teachers and school service personnel.

Justice touted the return of positive economic indicators during his term. These include leading the nation in gross national product growth for the first quarter of 2019, and revenue growth for fiscal year 2019 that surpassed the combined revenue growth between fiscal years 2007 and 2017.

“We have maneuvered ourselves to be on the launchpad and we’re ready to go,” Justice said. “Finally, as a state, we’re ready. We produced surplus after surplus after surplus, and we’ve gotten ourselves in some rankings first in the nation for West Virginia.”

Justice detailed progress on roads, including $800 million for road improvements through the Roads to Prosperity program, $98 million for secondary road maintenance, and allowing West Virginians to purchase transponders for the West Virginia Turnpike for an annual fee.

Addressing his switch in 2017 from Democrat to Republican, Justice said he came from a family of Republicans. He called his run as a Democrat a mistake and a lesson he learned from during his first year as governor.

“Whether you love it or hate it, (I) came into the Capitol and came in as a Democrat, but all people are entitled to one brain fart in their lives,” Justice said. “You’ve got to forgive me.”

“I’ve never seen anything as petty as the way the Democrats acted and performed in the first session of my governorship,” Justice continued. “There was no way on God’s Earth that I was going to go through that anymore.”

In campaign news: Roman Stauffer, the vice chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party and former executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, took over campaign manager responsibilities from Mike Lukach, a Trump 2016 campaign staff member and former White House official.