POINT PLEASANT — Only a few hours after being on a combine picking corn in Greenbrier County, democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice was in Point Pleasant, telling voters why he decided to run for office.
The rally, hosted by Justice and Mason County Democrats, was held at Trinity UM Church’s community building which was packed with supporters on Tuesday evening.
Justice was introduced by colleague and former Marshall University head football coach, Bob Pruett. Pruett gave opening remarks, saying he was not a politician, he was a coach, adding, he was also a West Virginian and felt Justice would give the state a chance “to be great again.”
When Justice took the stage, there was to be no podium and he jokingly told the story of his ingrown toenail that would require he sit while he engaged the crowd in a conversational manner.
“Our state has a crisis, but you know what, our state has had a crisis for a long, long time,” Justice said. “We’ve been 50th in everything coming and going forever more. I think we’re too good. In fact, I think we’re way too good and the reality is real simple, there are so many things right at our fingertips.”
Justice went on to say of this crisis: “You cannot cut your way out of this, you can’t do it, you can’t be taxed more…you cannot carve another pound of flesh off you, because people are hurting. So what are you going to do? You better get someone that wants to be your governor, that wants to be your leader for the right reason.”
Justice said he was running for governor because he believed in his heart he could help.
“The only thing negative I’ll say toward my opponent tonight is just this, if you know Bill Cole, and I know Bill Cole, he wants to be governor for Bill Cole, he really, truly does,” Justice said. “I don’t want that, all I want is for you to be better, for me to be better and for West Virginia to be better.”
“Better” meant having more opportunities, Justice explained.
He elaborated on those opportunities, talking jobs and keeping young people in the state. He said he was a “real believer” that coal “isn’t completely dead” but cautioned “even when coal was at its best, we were still struggling.”
Justice explained the state needs more than coal and talked about its plentiful natural resources, as well as opportunities in agriculture and tourism, and universities which he feels “can drive us with revenue if we would just get out of their way.” He then said education needs to become a top priority.
“I won’t ask you to trust me…I know what I’ll do and I don’t need forever to do it,” Justice said. “I need 10 months and if you don’t see progress in 10 months, you don’t need me. You can see right in front of you what others have done. For crying out loud, we worked really hard to pass raw milk, and in addition to that, we hurt a lot of people along the way, and in addition to that, we couldn’t even pass a budget forever more without costing you more money. That’s not good, that’s not leadership.”
In closing, Justice said, if he didn’t win the election, he would be “sad” but he’d be ok.
“A lot of you will be ok but there’s a lot of people out there hurting and they won’t be ok,” he explained. “If you elect another politician, you and I will both die 50th, you mark it down, that’s what will happen. We’ve got a chance, we’ve got to run through the finish line. I love you, I love our state, all I want is goodness for all of us. We are the best, we don’t need to be 46th, we don’t need to be 10th. I’m like Ricky Bobby, if you’re second, you’re losing. I want us to be what we deserve to be and that’s first.
Following his speech, Justice spoke to the Point Pleasant Register, and he was asked specifically about remarks made by Cole to this newspaper, where Cole said the businessman (Justice) wouldn’t be a full time governor.
In the interest of equal time, Justice was given a chance to respond.
“That’s totally ridiculous, really and truly,” he said, explaining he will be moving his coal business activities to his son and the management of the Greenbrier to his daughter.
“I’ve never done anything in my life halfway and when I said ‘I’m in,’ I’m all in, period,” Justice said.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.