West Virginia Governor Jim Justice Switches Parties and Becomes a Republican

President Trump talks with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice before Justice spoke during a rally Thursday in Huntington, W.Va. Justice said at the rally that he intends to switch parties and rejoin the Republicans. Darron Cummings/AP

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced he will flip from the Democratic Party to the GOP, making the announcement Thursday night while appearing at a rally with the president.

“Today I will tell you with lots of prayers and lots of thinking, I’ll tell you West Virginians, I can’t help you any more being a Democrat governor,” Justice said.

“The Democrats walked away from me,” the governor argued, and reflected that his late mother, who was a big fan of former President Ronald Reagan, was looking down on him thinking, “Jimmy, it’s about damn time you came to your senses.”

Trump had teased “a very big announcement” during the Huntington, W.Va., rally and the New York Times was first to report that Justice’s party switch would be the major reveal.

First elected last November as a conservative Democrat, Justice is a billionaire coal and real estate businessman who has drawn comparisons to Trump. He has identified as a Republican and an independent in the past, and he declined to endorse Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

On Thursday, Justice enthusiastically threw his support behind the president, saying he had already visited him at the Oval Office to talk about coal and manufacturing jobs. He praised Trump’s children, noting he’s gone hunting with his sons, and said, like him, the president isn’t a politician.

“This man is a good man,” Justice said. “He’s got a backbone. He’s got real ideas. He cares about America. He cares about us in West Virginia.”

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SOURCE: NPR, Jessica Taylor and Scott Detrow