West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday he's switching parties to join Republicans as President Donald Trump visited the increasingly conservative state.
Justice told about 9,000 Trump supporters at a rally in Huntington that he will be changing his registration Friday. He recently visited the White House twice with proposals on manufacturing and coal, neither he nor Trump are politicians and they both ran to get something done, he said.
"This man is a good man. He's got a backbone. He's got real ideas," Justice said. "He cares about America. He cares about us in West Virginia."
Trump said they spoke a few weeks ago about working together to open coal mines and create jobs in furniture manufacturing and other forms of manufacturing. "But Gov. Justice did something else very important tonight. He showed the country that our agenda rises above left or right," he said.
Justice was elected in November with just 49 percent of the vote, 20 percentage points behind Trump's total in the presidential contest in the state. Trump won 77 percent of West Virginia's Republican primary voters in May.
The president promised throughout the campaign to resurrect the lagging coal industry that has declined amid changing energy markets, leaving many West Virginia communities devastated. The industry and many of its workers have blamed the decline mostly on former President Barack Obama and his environmental policies.