Incumbent Gov. Jim Justice outraises Democratic challenger
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice raised nearly $890,000 for his reelection bid over the past three months, according to new campaign finance reports filed Wednesday.
Democratic nominee and Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango reported raising nearly $564,000 in his battle to deny Justice a second term.
In a state likely to vote to reelect President Donald Trump, Justice is playing up his ties to him in TV ads and eschewing typical campaign meet-and-greets amid the pandemic. He reported spending nearly $900,000 in his latest filing, mostly on television advertising. The billionaire businessman has so far loaned his campaign $1.98 million from his own fortune.
Justice’s campaign reported having about $263,000 cash on hand, while Salango has nearly $153,000.
Salango has been barnstorming the state, holding small outdoor rallies and aiming to convince voters he would do a better job fixing roads and bridges. This week he released an economic development plan aiming to attract industries and expand broadband — a longstanding issue for rural swaths of West Virginia without fast internet.
For his part, the governor has run a victory lap in recent weeks for his $1.6 billion infrastructure bond program, called Roads to Prosperity, which voters approved in 2017. On Monday he attended a ceremony in Nitro, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) east of Charleston, to mark construction of a road repaving project in the area.
In West Virginia, the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election is Oct. 13. Voters have until Oct. 28 to apply for a mail-in ballot.
Justice and Salango will meet next Tuesday for their first debate, hosted by the West Virginia Broadcasters Association. In recent months, both have aired attack ads. Salango has hit Justice over his businesses tax bills while the governor has tried to portray his rival as a puppet of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
Recent buys include an ad featuring Salango rock climbing, pledging to “help build West Virginia up.”
The incumbent got donations from onetime foes, including Bill Cole, the GOP’s nominee for governor in 2016 against Justice, who won then as a Democrat. He gave $2,800, as did former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, Justice’s opponent in the June GOP primary. Justice forced Thrasher out of the commerce department in 2018 after numerous complaints about poor management of a housing assistance program for 2016 flood victims.
Justice’s campaign reported tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills to his family’s businesses. The campaign owes $35,900 to his posh resort, The Greenbrier, $10,000 to Blackstone Energy, LLC, his family-owned coal company, and about $47,000 to Encore Leasing, LLC.
A conservative running a long-shot write-in campaign, Del. S. Marshall Wilson, reported raising $40,400.
Associated Press writer John Raby contributed to this report.