Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) announced on Thursday that he will run for Senate in West Virginia, setting up what is expected to be a contentious GOP primary in 2024 against Joe Manchin (D-WV).
Justice, who had been hinting at a run for months, made his candidacy official at his Greenbriar Resort in White Sulphur Springs within hours of submitting the necessary documentation, according to The Washington Examiner.
"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," he told an audience of supporters.
His entry into the campaign is a significant victory for national Republicans, who have been recruiting the term-limited governor, a popular figure in the state with substantial pockets as a wealthy businessman.
“Jim Justice is a proven winner whose record of creating jobs, cutting taxes, and fighting for conservative values has made him one of the most popular governors in the country," Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), chairman of the Senate GOP campaign arm, said in a statement.
In his twelve years in the Senate, Manchin has been able to cling on to his seat despite West Virginia's increasingly crimson trend. He holds the last statewide office held by a Democrat.
"This is about taking back the majority in the United States Senate," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) said at the launch event. "There is no way we take back the majority if we don't win here," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in his introduction of Justice.
Manchin welcomed news of the announcement, telling reporters, “Let the games begin.”
The senator has not yet announced whether or not he will seek re-election; he will not do so until the end of the year. However, he issued a statement Thursday morning expressing confidence in his ability to defeat Justice.
“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,” he said ahead of Justice’s announcement. “But make no mistake: I will win any race I enter.”
If Justice were to confront Manchin, it would signal a dramatic break between the two former allies. Manchin supported Justice's first bid for governor in 2016, prior to Justice's party transition from Democrat to Republican.
But first, Justice must win a costly and acrimonious battle for the Republican nomination. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), who announced his candidacy for the seat just days after being re-elected to the House, has the support of the Club for Growth, an influential conservative organization that spent approximately $100 million during the previous election cycle.
The organization has already committed to spending at least $10 million to counter the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in the West Virginia primary.
National Democrats anticipate that the eventual Republican nominee will emerge from the Republican primary battered and wounded.