Three days after Senator Joe Manchin announced he will not be seeking the governor’s seat in 2016, local impresario Jim Justice announced he’s considering a run for governor.
The Greenbrier resort owner and Lewisburg resident told this newspaper that he is considering filing to run in the 2016 election to replace Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who is not running again due to term limit laws.
Justice told the Mountain Messenger his primary platform will be job creation with an “all-in approach,” with coal and tourism not being the only industries he’d like to see thrive in the Mountain State.
“There’s more out there. There has to be a lot more than just that. We’re in striking distance of 65 percent of the population, we’re a faith-based people, and we have four beautiful seasons and a decent infrastructure. It makes me wonder ‘What in the world are we missing?’” he said. “I don’t like being 50th in everything.”
Justice said that he’ll be doing a lot of praying and consulting with his family before officially deciding whether to run. Should he do so, he’d seek to be nominated on the Democratic ticket.
“I really believe the good Lord put me here to be Jim Justice for a reason,” he said. “Not to sit on the porch and enjoy my wealth. I think there’s so much more than wealth. At the end of the day, that doesn’t matter to me.”
Forbes Magazine lists Justice’s net worth at $1.69 billion. In February, the Jim Justice family paid $5 million for the Bluestone mining facility, which he sold to Russian company Mechel OAO for over $500 million in 2009, shortly before he bought The Greenbrier for a reported $20 million.
Since the 2009, Justice has pumped millions of dollars into The Greenbrier, opening an underground casino, bringing in the PGA Tour stop and concert series, The Greenbrier Classic, and opening the Advocare Center football fields to the New Orleans Saints for their training camps, along with Center Court at Creekside, a world class tennis facility slated to open in June.
Justice is a divisive figure in Greenbrier County – he’s both admired and reviled as Greenbrier hotel owner, Greenbrier East High School basketball coach, and a coal mine operator. He is known for contributing to the local economy by saving The Greenbrier from bankruptcy and providing jobs in the largest private corporation in the area and devoting his time and money to the kids he coaches – not to mention helping the girls basketball team win a few championships. But, on the other hand, he’s also been accused of firing many long-standing Greenbrier employees, defaulting on his debts to other small, local businesses, and owing millions of dollars in fines for coal mine violations. He often speaks publicly about his deep love for the state of West Virginia – his folksy stories endearing him to some while making others cringe.
So why does the richest man in the state, who already boasts tremendous political clout, want to get into the dirty world of politics? Justice said he’s not worried about what he calls “mud-slinging.”
“I don’t want to take the easy way out. It goes back to my faith. Jesus could have opted out in a lot of ways. For me to sit back and take the easy way out isn’t worth it for the great people of West Virginia,” he said.
Justice said he’ll announce whether or not he’s running in two-to-three weeks.