By John Celock
West Virginia’s richest man is now the Democratic nominee to be the state’s next governor.
Jim Justice, a coal mining and resort executive, easily won the Democratic nomination Tuesday night in the contest to succeed term limited Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D). Justice captured 51 percent of the Democratic primary vote compared to 25 percent for former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and 24 percent for state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler. Justice will face state Senate President Bill Cole, who was unopposed for the Republican nomination, in November.
Recent polling has showed that Justice leads Cole in a head-to-head match-up in the general election. The gubernatorial battle comes as West Virginia Democrats try to maintain their long time control of the governor’s mansion as Republicans continue to gain traction in the state. West Virginia has only had two Republican governors – Cecil Underwood and Arch Moore Jr. – since 1933. Underwood served from 1957 to 1961 and from 1997 to 2001. Moore held the governorship from 1969 to 1977 and from 1985 to 1989. Republicans have captured control of all three of the state’s congressional seats, along with a U.S. Senate seat and control of the state Legislature. Republicans also serve as state attorney general and agriculture commissioner.
In addition to the family coal mining business, Justice is best known for buying the well-known Greenbrier resort in the state, saving the property from bankruptcy.
Justice’s win is a set back for the Goodwin family, which is one of the leading Democratic families in the state. Booth Goodwin stepped down as the state’s U.S. attorney last year to seek the governorship. His father, Joe Bob, is a federal judge, while his mother is longtime state Education and the Arts Secretary Kay Goodwin. Goodwin’s wife, Amy, is the state tourism commissioner and a former spokeswoman for Tomblin and former Gov. Bob Wise (D). Goodwin’s cousin, Carte, represented the state for four months in the U.S. Senate in 2010 following the death of U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd. Carte Goodwin had been a top aide to Gov. Joe Manchin (D), who appointed him to the Senate seat until a 2010 special election won by Manchin.