2017-08-09 / Front Page

Majority leader Cowles ‘surprised’ by governor’s party switch, hopes Justice will embrace GOP values

by Kate Shunney

Delegate Daryl Cowles Delegate Daryl Cowles West Virginia governor Jim Justice’s sudden announcement last Thursday, August 3, that he would switch political party affiliations from Democrat to Republican has given state elected officials plenty to talk about.

Justice, the billionaire coal-mining owner and owner of the Greenbrier Resort, was a Republican until 2015. He switched parties just ahead of his announcement that he’d run for governor.

Justice won the 2016 election with 350,408 votes over Republican Bill Cole, who pulled in 301,987 votes.

Last week, Justice announced his party change back to the GOP during a Donald Trump rally in Huntington. His staff and other elected officials were reportedly unaware of his plans to make the shift.

Local delegate Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan), who serves as Republican Majority Leader in the state’s House of Delegates, was among those who didn’t know the change was coming.

Governor Jim Justice Governor Jim Justice “Like many others, I was surprised by the Governor's decision to switch political parties,” Cowles said in an email. The decision might not be out of character, however, for the businessman.

“In only eight months of a 4-year term as Governor, Jim Justice has been very unpredictable. We have already seen press conferences with name calling, cow manure, and party switches,” Cowles said. “Whether a party change calms or exacerbates that instability is unknown but I want to insist we remain focused on helping our citizens by providing fair, good government. I still remain hopeful Jim Justice shares that goal.”

Cowles said it’s too early to tell how the party switch will impact the working relationship between the governor and lawmakers in Charleston and elsewhere in the state.

“I don't yet know how the unusual move will affect the Justice Administration or the Justice legislative agenda at the state Capitol. On a host of topics I was already working to find common ground with the Justice Administration for improving the Mountain State: tax reform needs; investments in infrastructure; expanded tourism efforts; stability in Higher Education funding; Cacapon State Park funding; and more,” Cowles said.

He welcomed Justice to the Republican Party, saying “it is a choice I made and a growing number of fellow West Virginians are making by selecting the Republican Party.”

Cowles said he hopes Governor Justice is “open to the principles and values of the GOP,” which he listed as “limited government, a focus on personal liberty and freedom with personal responsibility, free markets and good efficient government.”

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) applauded the governor’s switch, saying, "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."

Senator Joe Manchin (DW. Va.) also issued a statement on the move: “I have been and always will be a proud West Virginia Democrat. I am disappointed by Governor Justice’s decision to switch parties. While I do not agree with his decision, I have always said that I will work with anyone, no matter their political affiliation, to do what is best for the people of West Virginia.”

State Democratic leaders have criticized Justice, saying he “used” their party to fund and promote his campaign, and took advantage of state residents who voted for him.

Justice has said he wasn’t able to be effective as a Democratic governor, and hopes joining the GOP will help move his agenda of job growth and state prosperity forward.

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Really? Surprised? This guy

Really? Surprised? This guy was a Republican until a few days before filing for election. He was recruited by DINO Joe Manchin and supported by the WV Dem Executive Committee instead of two REAL Dems, Jeff Kessler, former Minority Leader of the Senate and Booth Goodwin, former US Attorney. Both completely qualified, a lot more than the billionaire deadbeat we have now. Isn't it just like someone like him to exploit Trump's little campaign visit to WV. I say GOOD RIDDANCE. Let the Republicans have both him and the other deadbeat billionaire.