West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced his campaign for Senate on Thursday, officially joining the race to oust incumbent Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat.
The West Virginia Senate race is one of the GOP’s best opportunities to flip a seat as Republicans seek to win a majority in the upper chamber. Manchin is viewed as one of the most vulnerable Democrats in a red state that voted heavily for former President Donald Trump.
“I am officially announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate, and I absolutely will promise you to God above that I will do the job, and I will do the job that will make you proud,” Justice said in his announcement.
The 72-year-old billionaire coal magnate switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP a few months after taking office in 2017 and declared his support for Trump. He’s since seen high approval ratings, topping those of Manchin.
The two-term governor is expected to make his announcement Thursday at the posh Greenbriar Resort he owns, accompanied by his bulldog, Babydog, and several GOP senators.
Before taking on Manchin, however, Justice would have to defeat Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), who has the support of various allies of Trump, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the conservative group Club for Growth.
Mooney has already accused Justice of being a “RINO,” or “Republican in name only,” in a signal of what is likely to be a contentious primary.
Manchin hasn’t said yet whether he will run for reelection, but he’s tacked to the right in recent months, blasting the Biden administration over its climate policies, voting with Republicans to overturn key regulations, and blocking the confirmation of some of President Joe Biden’s top executive nominees.
He’s even threatened to support the repeal of the Democrats’ major health and climate law ― which he helped write ― due to the way the Biden administration is implementing it.
But Manchin has dismissed the notion that politics have anything to do with his recent attacks on the Biden administration.
“Not at all,” Manchin told reporters this week. “I’ve run for a long time. I’ve been in state office for a long time. I lost one race in 1996. I made a vow that I’d never lose another race.”
On Thursday, ahead of Justice’s announcement, Manchin issued a defiant statement vowing to win “any race” he decides to run.
“I am laser-focused on doing the job West Virginians elected me to do ― lowering healthcare costs, protecting Social Security and Medicare, shoring up American energy security and getting our fiscal house in order. But make no mistake, I will win any race I enter,” Manchin said.