Coal billionaire Jim Justice very well may be elected governor of West Virginia next year. But for now voters can smell the desperation in the air as the state Democratic Party of 2015 has turned into the West Virginia Republican Party of 1984 when the elephantine party's bench was so short it had to run a brass, neophyte millionaire from Morgantown to run against Democratic Governor Jay Rockefeller making his first senatorial bid. While Raese almost pulled the race off -- Rockefeller was a terribly inept governor -- the fact is a competent, established candidate would have won. But the only Republican of that stature was running for governor, Arch Moore.
The rise of the Republican Party in West Virginia and the demise of the Democratic Party began in 2000 with the election of George W. Bush as president and Shelley Moore Capito to Congress. Without West Virginia's five electoral votes, Florida would not have mattered.
The eight-decade reign of the Legislature by the Democratic Party was longer than the Communist Party's reign over Russia. While it would be hyperbole to say West Virginia suffered as much, its economy was doing well with steel mills, glass works and many other industries in 1933 when the Democrats took over. Today, it has coal mines and welfare.
Justice owns the Greenbrier, having purchased it from CSX, which dumped it after heavy loss. The once five-star resort deteriorated due to anti-capitalist laws and neglect by the railroad, a story told often in West Virginia. The Chemical Valley of Kanawha County (the state's capital) is now the Empty Parking Lots With Weeds Valley.
Bob Byrd's death in 2010 opened this opportunity by removing Joe Manchin as governor as he took Byrd's place (after appointing an interim senator until the election). Republicans are optimistic and could take the governor's office, the state Supreme Court and at least one other statewide office as Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's name is now mud.
But we shall see.