West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice switched affiliation from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party at President Donald Trump’s rally in the state Thursday night, according to a Republican official familiar with the announcement.
Justice, who was until 2015 was registered as a Republican, was one of the last remaining Democrats elected to statewide positions in the state. Trump won West Virginia by 42 points over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The switch was first reported by the New York Times.
The president teased that he had a “big announcement” planned for the Thursday night rally. It is the second visit Trump has made to the state in as many weeks. Last week he spoke at the National Scout Jamboree, delivering a speech so raucous that the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America apologized for its political nature.
Justice made headlines by refusing to endorse Clinton during the 2016 election. But the coal and real estate executive won the election for governor as a Democrat despite Clinton’s massive loss to Trump. Trump campaigned promising to bring back coal mines to states like West Virginia.
The switch is the first time that a Democratic governor has switched to the Republican Party since 1991.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Abby Phillip