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Gov. Justice: ‘We are really, really moving’; praises efforts of many as he overwhelmingly wins re-election

WV News

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice says he is humbled by state residents’ strong support in the general election, but sees it as a clear mandate to keep pushing his economic development efforts forward.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out,” Justice said in an exclusive telephone interview with WV News. “When I got here, we were flat on our backs (financially). But really and truly, I think we had good players, but just needed a coach. … When we switched parties, we got things moving in the right direction.”

That direction has shown large budget surpluses, even during the pandemic, and a red wave that engulfed the state in Tuesday’s election.

With 96% of the votes counted Wednesday, Justice was leading Democrat Ben Salango by about 260,000 votes. Justice had garnered 65% of the vote to his opponent’s 31%.

With votes still being tabulated, it looked as if all incumbent Republicans in statewide offices — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Secretary of State Mac Warner, Auditor John J.B. McCuskey and Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt — were headed to easy victory, while upstart Riley Moore was upsetting longtime Democratic state Treasurer John Perdue.

All three House of Representatives incumbents — David McKinley, Carol Miller and Alex Mooney — were winning in landslides, and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s race had already been called in her favor, as she had a huge lead.

Both the state Senate and House appeared on the verge of gaining Republican members, making their majorities even stronger.

“I’ve said it before that I don’t care if you’re Democrat, Republican or Independent,” Justice said, after becoming just the second governor to switch parties and win re-election. “All that matters to me is to develop good stuff for all West Virginians, and we’re going to keep doing that.

“With the size of the victory, it is a clear mandate to keep moving the state forward, and I’m confident we will do that, ” Justice said, praising his administration staff and fellow leaders.

“I think we have a good team — we just needed a coach with vision. We had to have a dreamer that believed it was possible.”

Justice said he will continue to focus his efforts on growing the economy in his second four-year term.

“My No. 1 job is the economy,” he said. “Naturally we have to get through he pandemic and help people. (But) If the economics are right, we can do all kind of things we need to do to grow the state.

“We can awaken one day and have all those things we’ve seen other states have, but we don’t have to give up what we have here in West Virginia. We’re fortunate to live in paradise.”

Pointing to the recent announcements about Hyperloop coming to the state, as well as Mitsubishi’s planned expansion at North Central West Virginia Airport, Justice said he’s excited to be part of more to come.

“We’re just getting started, and we’ve having a hard time keeping up with all the good news,” he said. “We need to quit throwing stones at ourselves. Enough people outside the state do that. We need to be proud of what we have and what we’re becoming.”

Justice praised Salango, saying he ran a first-class campaign and the two had a “good-spirited debate, the way they should be.”

The governor said he appreciated Salango reaching out earlier on Tuesday night to congratulate him.