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In a Boon for Senate Gop Leaders, Trump Backs Jim Justice in West Virginia Senate Primary

Former President Donald Trump is backing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice in the state’s Republican Senate primary, the latest sign that Trump remains mostly aligned with Senate GOP leaders in regard to candidate selection as the party seeks to avoid the pitfalls of the 2022 midterms.

“Big Jim Justice, the Governor of the Great State of West Virginia (I LOVE WEST VIRGINIA!), is BIG in every way, but especially in his wonderful HEART! Strong on the Border, our Great Military & Vets, CLEAN COAL & Energy Dominance, the Economy, Stopping Inflation, & Protecting our 2nd Amendment, Big Jim will be a Great UNITED STATES SENATOR, and has my Complete & Total Endorsement. HE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN!!!” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post.

In the primary, Justice is up against Rep. Alex Mooney, who is backed by the conservative Club for Growth, which has drawn the ire of Trump.

National Republicans are firmly behind Justice, a Democrat-turned-Republican whose party switch mirrors the partisan realignment of the state, and see the popular governor and Trump ally as the more formidable option to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who is considered especially vulnerable for reelection in the deep-red state next year.

The race also will serve as a test of the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s new strategy of picking sides in primaries. The Club for Growth has planned to go head-to-head with the NRSC over candidates they believe are insufficiently conservative on fiscal issues, even as GOP leaders are focused on finding the most electable Republican.

CNN has previously reported that Trump had privately suggested to Mooney that the congressman would be unlikely to receive his backing. Mooney himself acknowledged to CNN in July that Trump felt a sense of loyalty to Justice over his decision to switch parties during a Trump rally in 2017.

In this August 2017 photo, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announces that he is switching parties to become a republican as President Donald J. Trump listens on at a campaign rally at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, West Virginia.

The endorsement from Trump could be key in a state he won by nearly 40 points in 2020.

Manchin has significant cash reserves, reporting $11.3 million in the bank on September 30. Justice raised about $613,000 in the third quarter and reported nearly $1.2 million in cash on hand, while Mooney hauled in $314,000 and had about $1.6 million banked.

Justice announced his Senate candidacy in April, where he focused his criticism on the Biden administration and avoided mentioning Mooney or Manchin in his remarks.

He was first elected governor in 2016 as a Democrat before switching parties a year later. It wasn’t the first time he had changed his political affiliation – he had previously been an independent and a Republican until 2015, when he announced his bid for governor as a Democrat.

Justice easily won a second term in 2020. He has recently focused on conservative issues. Last year, he signed into law a measure that prohibits nearly all abortions in the state, except in certain medical situations or in cases of rape or incest. In March, he signed a bill that allowed West Virginians who have a concealed carry permit to carry certain concealed weapons onto college and university campuses.

Mooney is a five-term member of the House and is a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus. He previously served in the Maryland legislature.

Source: CNN