The West Virginia Problem


Last week, Governor Jim Justice (R-WV) vetoed legislation that will allow exemptions for vaccine mandates for school children, including homeschooled students, children who attend private schools, or those parents with religious exemptions. West Virginia families hurt by the governor's veto of a bill that passed in the state house by nearly a 3-1 vote and the state senate by a 2-1 majority have already spoken out.
But while it would seem out of place to many Republicans, Justice has a long track record of government overreach regarding vaccinations and COVID, particularly imposing stricter regulations and keeping them in place long after most other states.
In 2016, Jim Justice campaigned and won as a Democrat. He attacked Republican ideals and candidates and donated some of his estimated billion dollars to fellow Democrat politicians and organizations. Unfortunately for the newly elected governor, he won 49.1% of the vote, while Republican Donald Trump won in a landslide with 68.5%. Justice quickly decided to switch parties and, for the next eight years, campaigned as a Republican and governed as a Democrat.
Especially in dealing with COVID, Justice's policies were even far to the left of President Joe Biden. Justice complained that Biden had declared the crisis over too soon and vowed to keep West Virginia residents in the grips of regulation longer. Justice even fought to keep West Virginia school children in masks long after their effectiveness was disproven and pushed to get small children who weren't school-age to get vaccinated.
Justice's COVID abuses didn't just stop with his misuse of power, but also his financial decisions. Federal tax dollars that West Virginia received to combat the virus made its way to fund other projects for the governor. Tens of millions of tax dollars earmarked for COVID went to the "Governor's Office Gifts, Grants and Donations Fund," which had an operating budget of $50,000 before the transfer. That money was then spent on budget items such as over $10 million for a new baseball stadium and other pet projects.

And Justice's financial arrangement didn't just stop with West Viginia's spending. Despite being a public official and a billionaire, companies owned by Jim Justice received approximately $24 million in tax dollars for COVID bailouts. Yet despite the taxpayer subsidies, Jim Justice's companies still managed to owe millions of dollars in taxes and debts that are still unpaid. The worst part of the saga of Gov. Justice is that he wants to take his failed policies to Washington, DC.
Justice hopes to replace Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is retiring.
The situation in the Senate is even bleak, with Democrats holding a 51 – 49 majority. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), and Susan Collins (R-ME) are more likely to vote with Democrats on major bills than Republicans will pick up votes from Democrats. In addition, the stakes in the Senate are higher: the terms are longer, there is a smaller margin for dissension, and the Senate has vital Constitutional duties like confirming judges and appointments and signing treaties. It is not a place for a Republican senator with Joe Biden sensibilities.
A six-year Senate term starting in 2025 would end in 2031, when Justice will be 76 years old. Without fear of voter accountability or further political ambition, Justice is free to pursue his liberal agenda.

Dave Mohel is President of BlueSkin Solutions, LLC, which provides media services for some of the largest and most prestigious political events across the country.

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