Watch West Virginia Governor Jim Justice in the video, below announce his switch to the Republican Party during a Trump Rally in Huntington, West Virginia.
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.”
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 governorships — 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 governor’s mansions and state legislatures in 26 states. Democrats have total control in just six states. (In 2018, they’ll have a chance to pick up governorships, with Republicans defending 27 of 38 seats, many in blue or purple states.)
Party switches, especially at the gubernatorial level, don’t happen very often. Justice is the first governor to switch from Democrat to Republican in 2½ decades. And it’s not clear he did it because of broader partisan dynamics.