U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin calls Gov. Jim Justice’s party switch ‘sad’

By JOSELYN KING

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin endorsed West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s run for office as a Democrat in 2016, and now Manchin says he just “feels sad” for those who supported Justice.

Justice won the race for governor and took over the office less than seven months ago, and last week he joined President Donald Trump in Huntington and announced he was joining the GOP. The move comes just as Manchin, D-W.Va., is gearing up for a re-election run in 2018.

Manchin remains the only Democrat in West Virginia’s congressional delegation, and he hails from a state in which Republicans control both the state House and Senate.

Now there is a Republican governor.

Not lost on Manchin is the fact Justice had been a Republican before, but changed his party affiliation to Democrat prior to filing in the 2016 gubernatorial election. Justice has said he changed back to the GOP after Democrats in the House of Delegates failed to support his plans for tax reform during a special session of the Legislature in May and June.

“It was sad, and it was very shocking to me,” Manchin said. “Jim did call and explain his explanation to me. I just said, ‘Jim, I don’t know how you can blame it on any one party — if that is your reason.’ I think he was just comfortable being a Republican and working with Donald Trump as a Republican. That is what this is all about.”

Manchin doesn’t believe Justice’s party change can be attributed to Democrats in the Legislature, where the governor has failed to achieved accord with GOP leadership.

“If that were the case, the Republicans would have done whatever Jim wanted if they were all in agreement,” Manchin said. “That didn’t happen.”

Manchin said he feels “very bad” for those people who believed Justice first left the GOP for the Democrat Party because he had noble intentions of “helping people.”

“There’s a lot of people that believed he (first) changed his party to be a Democrat because the premise of being a Democrat is that you always have to go to the bottom of people’s heart and try to help those in need,” Manchin said. “He wanted to change back, and that’s his decision. I’m comfortable with who I am, and I guess he is comfortable with who he is.”

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