Monday, May 11, 2015

Justice ready to step into political waters

Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice is expected to kick off his 2016 bid for governor during a Monday afternoon event.

Justice, a registered Democrat, has invited at least 100 people to the 3:30 p.m. announcement at the White Sulphur Springs Civic Center. The gubernatorial run would be the billionaire’s first foray into state politics.

Financing a campaign won’t be an issue for Justice, whose net worth recently was listed at $1.69 billion by Forbes Magazine. After rescuing the historically luxurious Greenbrier from bankruptcy, he rejuvenated its reputation by luring a PGA event, an NFL team training camp and selling several sports celebrities on nearby vacation homes.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey continues to loom as a potential Republican candidate.

“The most important thing is that we get bold, conservative leadership in the governor’s mansion beginning in 2017,” said Morrisey, who advocates the gradual elimination of the state’s personal income tax.

“I would say that my goal is to dramatically lower the income tax and potentially to eliminate over a long period of time. I think there are many better ways to manage state government and to realize revenue.”

Morrisey in 2012 became the state’s first GOP attorney general in eight decades, defeating five-term incumbent Darrell McGraw. He may not possess the level of name recognition of Justice or U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin—who opted not to run for governor again—but Morrissey sure sounded like a candidate who was gearing to face high-profile Democrats.

“We have transformed this (AG) office,” he said. “There never will be fear coming out of these quarters.”

Other Republicans considering a run for governor next year include Congressman David McKinley and state Senate President Bill Cole, both of whom say they are in the fact-finding stages. Cole filed pre-candidacy papers last week but did not specify the office he will be seeking.