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‘The whole thing makes me uneasy’: Residents speak out on Jim Justice’s party switch

By KRISTIN RENEAU

The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va.  — Gov. Jim Justice — while elected on the Democratic ticket — has announced a switch to the Republican Party, which has left many locals wary.

“I’m very, very disappointed. I don’t believe you can just go back and forth between the different parties, being a Democrat one day and a Republican the next,” said Kathi Anderson of Doddridge County. “I’m just disappointed. I can’t believe he would do that.”

Others said the switch betrays the Democratic Party, which helped Justice get elected governor. That’s the opinion of Andrea Freeman, who didn’t think Justice should go through with the party change.

“I don’t think he should, because the Democrats in West Virginia are the ones that elected him,” the Bridgeport resident said. “He should stick with the people that elected him, and if he wanted to be a Republican, he probably wouldn’t have gotten elected in West Virginia.”

Clarksburg resident Caleb Connolly said the party switch made him question Justice’s position on issues and his motivation.

“I feel uneasy any time an elected official changes their political party, because I feel like it changes their platform,” Connolly said. “I have to question their motivation — is this for political influence? Is it because it’s in the best interest of the candidate’s financial backers?”

Connolly said it’s not necessarily a bad thing to change parties, but pointed out this was the second time Justice has done so. Justice was a Republican until he joined the Democratic Party in 2015 before announcing his plans to run for governor.

“Did he only become a Democrat because he thought it was his best chance of getting elected?” Connolly asked. “The whole thing makes me uneasy.”

Grafton’s Joseph Solberg said that, as a Republican, he is always happy to welcome anyone into the party, but the governor’s new affiliation won’t do much unless Justice changes.

“Adopting the name doesn’t mean anything unless he adopts the platform and communicates openly with the Legislature,” Solberg said. “As for ‘not getting anything done as a Democrat governor,’ I guess time will tell if that was a result of political affiliation or competency.”

Others are avoiding the political scene entirely, like Clarksburg’s Tiffany Keller, who said she tries to stay out of politics.

“I really don’t know about it,” Keller said. “I’m not a very political person.”

Kristy LeeMasters, a Morgantown resident, said she avoids the political scene too.

“I try not to get into the middle of it. I know it’s definitely going to cause an uproar,” LeeMasters said. “I try to stay away from the political stuff after last year. It wasn’t anything I wanted to be a part of.”

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