Endorsements, Opinion

Endorsement: Justice offers the excitement of possibilities

An editorial from The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Given the economic state of our state, the profusion of vexing issues left unattended if not ignored and the tangled web that our politics have become at the state capitol, we think Charleston needs a dramatic change in leadership, a mover and shaker in the business world, a big dreamer and visionary with very real ideas – and experience – about how to inject some giddy-up into our go.

We think that person is Jim Justice.

We are impressed with both Democrat Justice and Republican Sen. Bill Cole as candidates for governor. Both are smart and highly successful businessmen, both stand on the conservative side of the dial, both are unapologetic about their support for coal and both hold West Virginia near and dear.

On the issues, they are very nearly on the same page. Both want better pay for teachers. Both have faith in the coal industry. Both want to bypass issues that poisoned any goodwill in the last legislative session. And both sense an urgency to address the economy.

Good people, both, possessing qualities that would serve them well in the state’s top spot.

Cole knows how the legislative sausage gets made and was the GOP’s front man in turning the Senate to Republican control over the past two election cycles. While the House of Delegates was flailing about this past legislative session, Senate President Cole ran a tight ship at his end of the capitol, holding his slim 18-17 advantage on every important vote.

It’s the business manager in him that brought that about. And that speaks volumes – in a good way – about how he would govern.

But, at the end of the day, Justice is the candidate with fresh ideas that excite the imagination.

He is, after all, the guy who took The Greenbrier out of bankruptcy, giving it a $250 million facelift and turning it into a 10,000-acre complex. With top-shelf golfing, an underground casino and an adjacent sports complex that has brought the New Orleans Saints to preseason camp in White Sulphur Springs, The Greenbrier has become an economic driver, tourism diamond and must-see destination in West Virginia.

You want to bet that Justice can’t jump start the West Virginia economy?

Justice built his corporate empire from his father’s inheritance in coal. His expansive portfolio includes agriculture, timber and milling operations across the South.

And, while other coal operators have floundered in recent years, Justice has managed to keep his mines open and running – but not without cost.

 Justice has been late with tax payments to counties that rely on coal revenues to provide basic services. The coal baron and political neophyte explains it away as typical business practice.

But lawsuits and protests have mounted. At one point in 2014, Justice faced over 200 pending regulatory violations that turned onto hefty settlements and fines.

If he becomes governor, he’ll need to clean up those practices.

But, there is something innately down-to-Earth and Appalachian about the plain-spoken Justice, too. When historic flooding closed the Greenbrier this summer, he opened its doors to those who were left homeless. And, yes, he says he will continue to coach the Greenbrier East High School girls and boys basketball teams this season even if he is elected to office.

As he likes to say, if there’s not time enough in the day to get your work done, you need to work nights.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Justice is a dreamer and a doer and a tireless marketer of all things West Virginia.

Perhaps no one is better made for the moment than Justice. We believe he can and will do his best to right the ship West Virginia.

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