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Manchin: WV needs ‘full-time governor’

January 12, 2019

CHARLESTON — Newly re-elected Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., didn’t say he’s running for governor. He didn’t deny it either, but he did take a crack at the incumbent.

Longtime West Virginia MetroNews talk radio host Hoppy Kercheval set the rumor mill ablaze with a column Friday morning, citing unnamed sources, titled “Manchin considering running for governor ... again.”

Later Friday, Manchin said he had not read the column and did not directly answer a question of whether he’s going to run for governor.

“The state of West Virginia deserves and needs a full-time governor,” he said in response. “I’ve held that position. I know what it takes. You’ve got to live it; you’ve got to eat it; you’ve got to breathe it. And you don’t have a surrogate doing it for you. That’s all I’m saying. And what I’m seeing now is not right.”

Sitting GOP Gov. Jim Justice is currently facing legal action in Kanawha County Circuit Court filed by a Democratic member of the House of Delegates alleging he is violating the state Constitution by living at his Lewisburg home. The filing, in general, paints Justice as a no-show governor.

Bray Cary, senior adviser to the governor and a board member of natural gas driller EQT, is known to have increasing influence in the office. In jest, Justice referred to Cary as “my oldest son” at his State of the State address Wednesday.

Manchin, when asked if he was referring to Justice and Cary, offered a cryptic response.

“I think people are smart enough in West Virginia to put two and two together,” he said.

Manchin was elected governor in 2004 and re-elected in 2008. As a U.S. senator, he backed Justice as some of his close aides worked on the then-Democrat’s gubernatorial campaign.

The relationship eventually soured. Justice switched to the Republican Party in 2017; he fired Gayle Manchin, the senator’s wife, from her post as the secretary of the Department of Education and the Arts; and he endorsed Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in his failed Senate bid against Manchin.

In a September 2018 interview, Manchin said supporting Justice’s campaign was the biggest “mistake” of his political career. However, after the interview, he clarified to say it was the greatest “disappointment” of his career.

“I feel very bad for the people I asked to support Jim; I did not know the lack of character or the political character that he is,” he said. “I knew Jim as a person before, who we had a great relationship with. I didn’t know being a politician could change a human being as much as it has changed him.”

His remarks came in the midst of a government shutdown that is likely to break the record for the longest one of all time. Though he won re-election just a few months ago after a bruising campaign, he reportedly waffled on whether to run in the first place, telling The New York Times that “this place sucks” in reference to Washington, D.C.

Thus far, both Justice and Democratic community organizer Stephen Smith have publicly announced plans to run.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.