CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Greenbrier owner and billionaire Jim Justice on Monday announced his intentions to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016.
After weeks of speculation, Justice, 63, formally declared his decision in front of a large crowd gathered at the White Sulphur Springs Civic Center.
“In all honesty, I would have never dreamed — never dreamed in lots of lots of ways — that I would ever be in front of you today,” Justice said.
Justice said he decided to enter the race because he was tired of West Virginia being ranked last or near the bottom of lists ranking economic or public health. He told the crowd the state has too many natural and structural assets — including a good workforce, decent tax structure and natural beauty — to be near the bottom on so many lists.
He described a recent trip through the state’s coalfields and the desolation he witnessed on people’s faces. He said he entered the race because it was time for someone to turn that around.
“Our state and our people are hurting, and we need somebody to step forward that doesn’t have a vested interest in trying to do something for themselves and do something,” he said.
Justice said he didn’t have any “magic potions” to fix everything, but said he would start with focusing on creating jobs.
“This is all about one thing, and that’s jobs,” he said. “If you don’t have a job, it all falls by the wayside.”
Justice’s announcement comes just more than three weeks after U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said on national television he would not be running for governor. A few days later, Justice expressed his interest in the race.
Although he’s never held political office, Justice has developed strong relationships with many West Virginia’s politicians, including Manchin, who awarded the billionaire with a Distinguished West Virginian award — the highest award a governor can bestow — in 2010.
Justice has reportedly met with political strategists in recent weeks…