Now that Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has said he will not enter the 2020 Governor’s race, incumbent Jim Justice (R) is drawing new Democratic opponents. The latest, and perhaps most significant, is state Sen. Ron Stollings (D-Madison) who carried a district that President Trump won with a 59 percentage point margin. At this point, Sen. Stollings is the only Democrat in the field of four candidates with electoral experience. Gov. Justice has two Republican primary opponents, former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and ex-state Delegate Mike Folk.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D) had been traveling his state during the congressional recess testing the waters as to whether he should challenge Gov. Jim Justice (R). Though he was leading in a published poll, Sen. Manchin announced that he will not run for Governor, choosing instead to continue his career in federal office. Mr. Manchin was just re-elected in November, so he does not again come before the voters until 2024. In the last gubernatorial campaign, the Senator made a similar maneuver, indicating he might run but then choosing to remain. Mr. Manchin was Governor from January of 2005 to November of 2010 when he resigned to enter the Senate.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D) promises to announce shortly whether he will challenge Gov. Jim Justice (R) next year, but a new survey suggests he would begin the race with an advantage if he decides to run.
A MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll (Research America; 8/14-22; 501 WV registered voters) finds Sen. Manchin leading Gov. Jim Justice (R), 49-39%. In the Republican primary, Gov. Justice holds a 53-19-12% advantage over former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and ex-state Delegate Mike Folk.
First-term Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) now sees her first Democratic opponent come forward. Yesterday, Paula Jean Swearengin, who bills herself as a “Coal Country environmentalist” announced that she will enter the Democratic Senatorial primary. Ms. Swearengin ran before, last year in a primary challenge to Sen. Joe Manchin (D). She fared poorly, attracting only 30% of the vote, raising slightly more than $200,000. Sen. Capito should have an easy re-election run if Democrats don’t field a stronger candidate.
Little so far has been said about first-term Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s (R) re-election bid. At this point, nary a Republican nor Democrat has indicated an interest in running. Therefore, it was of little surprise when Sen. Capito announced yesterday that she will run for re-election. With most of the political attention on the Governor’s race, and with President Trump on the ballot in his second strongest state, Sen. Capito looks to be a lock to secure a second term.
When Gov. Jim Justice (R) appointed businessman Woody Thrasher to be his Commerce Department Secretary, he didn’t figure that a member of his Cabinet would return to oppose him in the 2020 election. But, this is about to happen. Next week, Mr. Thrasher is expected to announce his Republican primary gubernatorial challenge to Gov. Justice.
In 2016, Mr. Justice was elected as a Democrat, but then changed parties less than a year into his Governorship. Therefore, as he seeks re-election, this will be the first time he appears before an exclusively non-Democratic electorate. Mr. Thrasher’s entry in the race will make this primary, a contest that also features former state Delegate Mike Folk (R), a campaign to watch. The Governor’s race is expected to dominate West Virginia politics in next year’s election.
First-term Gov. Jim Justice (R), who was elected as a Democrat in 2016 but switched to the Republican Party less than a year after his statewide victory, has drawn possibly two GOP primary opponents. Former state Del. Mike Folk says he will likely challenge the Governor in next May’s primary election, and Woody Thrasher (R), who Mr. Justice appointed as his original Commerce Department Secretary, is also being discussed as a potential contender. So far, however, Mr. Thrasher has refused to confirm that such a move is under consideration.
Last week, speculation began surfacing that Sen. Joe Manchin (D) may attempt to re-gain his former post and challenge Gov. Justice in the general election. Therefore, it appears this Governor’s race may soon begin drawing serious national attention from political observers.
Before the 2016 election there was much public speculation about whether Sen. Joe Manchin (D) would run to re-claim his former job as West Virginia’s Governor. He, of course, didn’t and businessman Jim Justice won the position as a Democrat but then changed parties less than a year after winning the general election. Now, Gov. Justice is seeking re-election as a Republican.
This week, more rumors began to surface that Sen. Manchin is again apparently weighing the option of running for Governor, this time because he strongly opposes Gov. Justice. This could be the start of another long political song and dance that becomes a false alarm, but clearly Sen. Manchin would be the best candidates the Democrats could field.
On the other hand, he will be under enormous national political pressure from the Democratic establishment to remain in the Senate. West Virginia requires special elections to fill Senate vacancies, so the chances of Republicans picking up the seat in an open contest would be quite high if Mr. Manchin were to be elected Governor.
Gov. Jim Justice, who was elected in 2016 as a Democrat but has since changed parties, looks to be facing his first Republican primary. Former state Delegate Mike Folk (R-Berkeley County) announced that he will challenge the Governor in next year’s Republican primary. Because Mr. Justice has never run on the Republican ballot, he could potentially become vulnerable in a GOP primary. Whether Mr. Folk has the political wherewithal to upset Gov. Justice or becomes a stalking horse for another candidate is a subject of conjecture.
In any event, this situation monitors attention until at least the candidate field is established. The West Virginia candidate filing deadline will be scheduled for next January, and the state primary in May of 2020.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D) making comments that he might run for Governor in 2020 has GOP leaders watching with interest. Should he run and defeat GOP Gov. Jim Justice, a special election would be called to fill the balance of Manchin’s Senate term as opposed to the Governor filling the vacant seat via appointment. The law does allow a short-term appointment until the special is held, but the election would quickly follow the vacancy becoming official and would be conducted in mid-2021. Republicans would be favored in an open Senate special election without Mr. Manchin on the ballot.
It is clear that a Justice-Manchin gubernatorial race would be close. Mr. Manchin just won a 49-46% re-election victory in November over Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), yet it is obvious that challenging an incumbent would make Manchin’s road tougher. As we remember, Mr. Justice was not elected as a Republican but changed parties in 2017 after winning the position months earlier as a Democrat. Therefore, Manchin would likely enjoy a unified Democratic Party, with some Republican voters still wary of Gov. Justice.
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