West Virginia Democratic governor switches to GOP

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is expected to announce a party switch in a surprise appearance with President Donald Trump in Huntington, W.Va., on Thursday, according to two sources.

Justice’s flip from Democrat to Republican, as first reported by the New York Times, is further confirmation of his state’s sharp rightward turn, and reflects Trump’s widespread popularity in a state the president won by a landslide in 2016.

Trump, who has promised to restore lost coal industry jobs, has lavished attention on West Virginia since taking office.

Justice, who seldom worked with other Democrats, recently spent a well-publicized day hunting with Donald Trump Jr. — a familiar political optic in a largely rural state with a strong hunting tradition. But his move still blindsided his old party, which is now left with control of just only 15 governors mansions.

Multiple national Democrats who have worked for Justice in the past said he gave them no advance notice on the party switch.

Kevin Robillard and Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.

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