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Justice: Cabinet, Staff Staying on after Party Switch

Ashton Marra
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Jim Justice officially returned to the state’s Republican Party Friday afternoon.

The change came less than 24 hours after the governor announced his intention to flip parties during a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The governor first changed his registration in 2015 to Democrat before announcing his bid for governor, but says he “can’t move this state forward” as a member of the party.

Justice maintained no one on his staff or in his cabinet has announced they will leave over the decision, and continually touts the stance that their party affiliation doesn’t matter to him.

There are notable Democrats working for the administration, though.

Department of Education and the Arts Secretary Gayle Manchin is the former First Lady and Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

Chief of Staff Nick Casey is a former state Democratic Party chair. 

Communications Director Butch Antolini served in the same role under former Democratic Agricultue Commissioner Walt Helmick and several other members of the staff were holdovers from the Tomblin administration. 

Still, Justice said his work will continue whether staffers stay or go.

“You know the train always seems to go on," Justice said. "Sometimes it becomes a little difficult, I’m telling you this train is going to go on and this train’s going north.”

Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered. She joined the news team in October of 2012.

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