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Justice admits ‘mistakes’ at Jefferson-Jackson dinner; Edwards is keynote speaker

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Everybody makes mistakes, West Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jim Justice said at his party’s annual fundraising dinner Saturday — a day after it was reported that he owes $15 million in delinquent taxes and fines.

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve got a lot of experience,” Justice said during the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner at the Charleston Civic Center. The longtime high school basketball coach and owner of The Greenbrier resort asked West Virginians to “give me the ball,” because, despite his mistakes, he wants “nothing but goodness” for the Mountain State.

A report published Friday by National Public Radio found that the billionaire-turned-politician has failed in six states to pay local, state and federal taxes, along with fines for federal mine safety violations.

NPR also reported Friday that Justice reneged on a $10 million charitable promise in 2011 to the Cleveland Clinic and only followed through with a fifth of a $25 million promise to the Boy Scouts of America, which was supposed to go toward a camp at the Scouts’ 14,000-acre reserve in Southern West Virginia. That camp has been named after Justice’s father.

“We all made mistakes,” said Jay Justice, before his father took the stage. “We all try to learn from those mistakes, but one thing I know is that my dad has a strong code of ethics and moral compass, and he will always try to do the right thing.”

Jill Justice, the candidate’s daughter, also spoke Saturday. Both Jay and Jill Justice touted their father’s strong work ethic.

For most of his speech, Justice attacked Republicans for their “dismal hopelessness.”

Justice accused Republican candidate for Governor Bill Cole of having the wrong idea when it comes to solving drug addiction issues in the state. In a campaign ad, Cole says he would treat heroin dealers with the same attitude as he would ISIS.

More drug treatment facilities, “in the worst way,” is what the state needs, Justice said. The facilities could help be an economic driver, he added.

“They create jobs, and not only that, those that are struggling and having those problems, their loved ones will go there, and they will spend money here,” Justice said.

Justice also said there is plenty of untapped economic potential in the state, including in agriculture, forestry, tourism and coal.

“I know that we should not give up on coal,” he said.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards also spoke during Saturday’s event.

Bob Brown, the Senior Vice President of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, was named Democrat of the Year.

Reach Max Garland at [email protected], 304-348-4886 or follow @MaxGarlandTypes on Twitter.

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