What They Are Saying: West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s Party Switch Gives GOP An All-Time High of Governors

With West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s decision to leave the Democratic Party and join the Republican Party, the GOP now holds 34 governorships – the highest number in U.S. history. Meanwhile, Demcorats find themselves with only 15 governors – a near-century low – after having boasted just months ago that “it would be impossible to lose more states to Republicans.” Here are some highlights of recent coverage:

The Washington Post reported that Democrats “just hit a new low” after thinking “things couldn’t get worse” for them after the 2016 election cycle:


 “In November, Republicans solidified and/or expanded their majorities at all levels of governance, and it looked as if things couldn’t get worse for Democrats. Except, it just did. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday he is leaving the Democratic Party, just six months after taking office, and becoming a Republican. An extra twist of the knife for Democrats: He did it alongside President Trump, at a rally in West Virginia. ‘Like it or not, but the Democrats walked away from me,’ he told Trump supporters. ‘ … West Virginia, I can’t help you anymore by being a Democratic governor.’”

Fox News took note of the Washington Post’s headline and how Governor Justice’s decision added to the GOP’s record gubernatorial majority:

The Hill called Governor Justice’s decision a “a slap in the face to the Democratic Governors Association, which spent more than $1 million to try to get Justice elected in 2016:”

“West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Democrat, will announce he is flipping to the GOP at a rally with President Trump on Thursday. A senior Republican operative confirmed Justice’s plans to switch parties to The Hill. Justice, a coal magnate and the wealthiest man in West Virginia, first won office last year. Before announcing his candidacy, he was wooed by both Democrats and Republicans. Ultimately, he opted to run as a Democrat. Justice’s party switch is a slap in the face to the Democratic Governors Association, which spent more than $1 million to try to get Justice elected in 2016.”

The Associated Press mentioned how Governor Justice’s move weakens Democrats’ ability to hold statewide offices in West Virginia going forward:

“Justice’s defection leaves Democrats with just 15 governors among 50 states.

In West Virginia, his jump is another blow for Democrats in a state they once ran without opposition. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and state Treasurer John Perdue will be the remaining statewide elected Democrats. Manchin is up for re-election in 2018, one of 10 Democratic senators running in states Trump won, a dynamic that gives Democrats an uphill path to reclaiming a Senate majority.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch emphasized that Governor Justice’s switch gives Republicans a “record high” number of governors with 34 currently in office while Democrats now hold a “record low:”

 “It’s not immediately clear why Justice is doing an about-face. But the fact he is underscores just how fragile Democrats’ hold on power is. With one politician’s decision to switch parties, Democrats now hold a record low number of governors offices — and Republicans hold a record high.

Justice will be the 34th Republican governor, tying an all-time high for the party. Republicans now control both the governors’ mansions and state legislatures in 26 states. Democrats have total control in just six states.”