West Virginia’s newly-Republican Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday that he is supporting Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump administration seeks to use global aid for nuclear projects Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wins GOP gubernatorial primary MORE (D-W.Va.) against his own party’s Senate nominee in 2018.
Justice, a former Democrat who switched party affiliations last month, is already bucking his new party according to a Metro News report. He pointed to Manchin’s willingness to work with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE as well as the friendship between the two as key reasons for his decision.
“Joe Manchin has been a friend of mine,” Justice told a crowd of West Virginia Republicans on Monday. “Now he may be a terrible person to y’all but Joe has been a friend of mine, and I’m going to tell you this as straight up as I can be: Joe Manchin is becoming a very key, integral part with Donald Trump. And I’m going to take my read off of Donald Trump.”
“Joe Manchin is — and I know this — Joe Manchin is Donald Trump’s liaison with the Democrats,” he said. “And you want, and I want, what Donald Trump is trying to get done.”
The remarks shocked Republicans in the state and came just hours after West Virginia’s GOP chairman told Buzzfeed News that he was confident Justice would be supporting conservative candidates in 2018.
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“He said positive things about the Republicans who were running,” Conrad Lucas said earlier Wednesday. “I’m confident that the governor will support the Republican nominee after our primary and as things get closer to the election to 2018.”
Justice publicly switched parties at a campaign-style rally with Trump last month. At the rally, he praised Trump, calling the GOP president a “good man” with “backbone.”
“This man is a good man. He’s got a backbone. He’s got real ideas,” Justice said of Trump in August. “He cares about America. He cares about us in West Virginia.”
Manchin is one of a number of Senate Democrats up for reelection next year hailing from a state that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. Trump took West Virginia by a whopping 42 points and many Republicans see Manchin’s seat as a prime target for a GOP win.