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Manchin says West Virginia deserves, needs ‘full-time’ governor

CHARLESTON — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin didn’t deny he was thinking about running for governor next year when reporters asked him Friday about a column posted earlier in the day by MetroNews “Talkline” Host Hoppy Kercheval.

Kercheval wrote Manchin was considering a 2020 run for several reasons including a cooled relationship with Gov. Jim Justice. Manchin, who said he hadn’t yet read the column, put the focus on Justice when questioned Friday at an event in Kanawha County.

MORE Hoppy’s column

“All I’ll say is this, the state of West Virginia deserves and needs a full-time governor,” Manchin said. “I’ve held that position and I know what it takes. You’ve got to live it. You’ve got to eat it. You’ve got to breathe it and it’s 24/7. And you don’t have a surrogate running it for you. What I’m seeing now is not right. We’ll see what happens in the future”

Manchin was likely referring to Justice senior adviser Bray Cary who many have said is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the Justice administration.

“I think the people are smart enough in West Virginia to put two and two together,” Manchin said.

Justice has been criticized for not living at the governor’s mansion and not coming to his office at the capitol on a daily basis. Justice has said he doesn’t have to be in Charleston to get things done. Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, has filed a lawsuit three separate times against Justice alleging he’s violating the state Constitution by not residing in the Capital City. The legal challenge hasn’t gained much traction.

Justice announced his 2020 reelection bid back on Monday and Manchin was just elected to another six-year term in the U.S. Senate in November. Manchin said he has a job to do right now.

“I just took on a new position in the Senate, I’m the ranking member on the Energy (Committee). I can help my state and country tremendously,” Manchin said.

These were friendlier times in 2013 when Manchin played a round of golf with Justice and Phil Mickelson at the Greenbrier Classic.

Manchin won gubernatorial elections in 2004 and 2008. He left in 2010 after winning an election to fill the unexpired term left after the death of U.S. Senator Robert Byrd. He could run for governor and remain in the Senate.

Manchin supported Justice in his 2016 gubernatorial run but things have changed since then. Justice changed his political affiliation to Republican in 2017 and also eliminated the state Department of Education and the Arts last year, leaving Manchin’s wife, former Secretary of Education and the Arts, Gayle Manchin, without a job.