Democratic Mayor Steve Williams has officially declared his candidacy for the position of Governor in West Virginia, becoming the sole representative from his party to join the race thus far. Mayor Williams, who currently serves as the mayor of Huntington, made this announcement during the “United Mine Workers of America 84th Annual Labor Day Celebration” held on Monday.
During his address at the event, Mayor Williams emphasized his strong ties to the coal mining heritage of West Virginia, stating, “I’m the grandson of two coal miners, and I’m standing on their shoulders.” He passionately conveyed his intention to run for the governor’s office in the upcoming election, as reported by WOWK 13 News.
Notably, Mayor Williams is the only Democrat who has expressed a desire to participate in the gubernatorial race. This announcement follows Democrat Ben Salango’s decision not to pursue the state’s executive seat. If no other Democratic candidates enter the race, it would mark a significant departure from the past, with the fewest Democrats running for governor in the state in at least 75 years, as per Politico.
Mayor Williams confirmed his plans to file the necessary paperwork to officially enter the race during the first week of October. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, seven candidates have already submitted pre-candidacy papers to vie for the position of Governor, including West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who announced his candidacy back in April.
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Pre-candidacy papers play a crucial role in allowing campaigns to commence fundraising activities and necessitate the submission of campaign finance reports. To become an official candidate in the race, individuals must file a separate certificate of announcement and pay a $1,500 fee, adhering to campaign regulations. The formal filing period is set to begin in January.
Governor Jim Justice, who has served two consecutive terms, is set to conclude his term on January 13, 2025. Initially elected as a Democrat in 2016, Governor Justice is now vying to succeed Senator Joe Manchin in the U.S. Senate. Furthermore, he faces legal challenges from the Justice Department due to outstanding fines resulting from violations associated with his coal companies.
Currently, Governor Justice leads the Republican Senate primary race by a significant margin over Representative Alex Mooney. Both Justice and Mooney pose substantial challenges to Senator Manchin, who is considered by Republicans to be too liberal for West Virginia. Senator Manchin has not yet confirmed whether he will seek re-election, hinting at the possibility of pursuing higher office, potentially as a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election.
In a hypothetical general election matchup against Senator Manchin, Governor Justice commands a 51% share of likely votes, with Senator Manchin trailing at 38%, according to a recent poll. In a head-to-head contest between Representative Mooney and Senator Manchin, the race remains closely contested, with 45% of voters expressing support for Manchin, compared to 41% for Mooney.