West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday that he is running for the West Virginia Senate seat in 2024 currently held by Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat.

“I am officially announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate,” Justice told a roomful of supporters at a luxury resort in White Sulphur Springs, per CNN. “And I absolutely will promise you to God above that I will do the job, and I will do the job that will make you proud.”

Justice, who initially ran as a Democrat, became governor in 2016 but switched party affiliations to Republican after a few months in office. He revealed the news at a rally for former President Donald Trump, his ally, as Forbes reported at the time. (Both Trump-backed candidates won the 2020 House elections in West Virginia.)

Who has endorsed Jim Justice?

The race could be critical for the GOP in its bid to control the Senate.

Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia showed their support for Justice at the announcement. Graham conveyed that Justice was a strong Republican candidate, according to local news outlets.

“We need help in Washington,” Graham said. “We need a winner. We need somebody who can win in a general election, a conservative who can move the ball forward in Washington, D.C.”

Meanwhile, Capito touted the partnership the Republican party has had with Justice, who enjoys a 66% approval rating as the GOP governor.

“We’ve worked on the COVID response together. We worked on broadband deployment. I think we’re really gonna make a good pair in Washington,” Capito said.

Justice has also earned the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Justice appeared on Fox News, sitting alongside his bulldog, named Babydog — who he intends to take with him to Washington, D.C., should he get elected — to field questions about his newly launched bid and his competition.

Of Manchin, he said, “I absolutely believe that for good or for bad, Joe migrates back too much. And the situation we have right now is we have got to control the Senate.”

Reporters asked Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican, if he would weigh in on the race, to which he said, “I won’t in any way campaign against my friend Joe Manchin.”

“He’s a great friend, good leader,” he said about Manchin. The two have worked together on bipartisan legislation in the past.

Romney’s office clarified to the Deseret News that the senator also said that he will “probably stay out of the race.”

West Virginia Senate race gets crowded

Justice faces GOP Rep. Alex Mooney, a previously Trump-backed candidate, and Chris Rose in the Republican primaries, which are already proving to be divisive, according to NBC News.

Backed by the Club for Growth, which has promised to spend millions on the representative’s campaign, Mooney was quick to engage in a counter-response to Justice’s bid, alleging that the governor has liberal leanings.

“Jim Justice has a liberal record and Republican primary voters will soon see that he is nothing but a Democrat in sheep’s clothing,” he said.

“Supporting over $3 trillion in Biden spending, proposing massive tax hikes, and gun control are just a few examples of Justice’s extreme liberal postures,” Mooney stated, according to West Virginia’s MetroNews.

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Meanwhile, Manchin hasn’t revealed whether he is running for reelection. But after Justice’s announcement, he emailed his supporters, saying that he is “laser focused” on his job as West Virginia’s senator, working on “lowering healthcare costs, protecting Social Security and Medicare, shoring up American energy security and getting our fiscal house in order.”

“But make no mistake, I will win any race I enter,” he added.

Manchin, who has served as the senator of the deeply red state for over a decade, told reporters that Justice’s bid “doesn’t change anything” and that he expects the primaries to be “very interesting and entertaining.”

Suzanne Bates contributed to the reporting.

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