Focus on issues in governor’s race

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Other than pledging to bring new jobs to West Virginia and overhaul state government, Jim Justice has said little about the issues in his campaign for governor. He plans to discuss them with consultants before releasing a platform, he said Monday.

Once Justice formulates stances on specific concerns in our state, he will have no trouble making voters aware of them. Justice is West Virginia’s only billionaire, worth about $1.7 billion.

The 64-year-old Lewisburg resident announced Monday he will seek the Democrat Party nomination for governor next year. On Tuesday, he stopped in Wheeling.

Justice is a very successful businessman, with interests in coal mining and agriculture. In addition, he owns the Greenbrier Resort.

In all likelihood, Justice will take more conservative positions than the only other announced Democrat candidate, state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler of Marshall County. That could give Democrat voters a real choice in terms of where on the ideological spectrum they want their governor to stand.

But the elephant in the room is money, of course. Already there have been accusations Justice intends to use his fortune to “buy” the election.

Older West Virginians have some experience with a similar situation. It comes from 1980, when then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller was running for re-election against Republican former Gov. Arch Moore, who passed away earlier this year. Rockefeller won, going on a few years later to win a seat in the U.S.?Senate from which he retired a few months ago.

In 1980, Rockefeller spent the then-unprecedented amount of $12 million in his gubernatorial campaign. That is equivalent to about $34.4 million today.

Even though Rockefeller won, Moore still managed to garner 45.5 percent of the vote.

How much of his own money Justice is willing to spend on the 2016 race remains to be seen. It is within his power to make the 1980 campaign seem cheap by comparison. But Mountain State voters in the past were able to focus on the issues – and they will be again next year.

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