West Virginia’s Governor, an ‘Unusual Democrat,’ Fights a Republican Tide

In States On

Mr. Justice, a businessman who owns mining and other companies, cannonballed into the state’s collapsing Democratic Party, winning the governorship in November with vague promises to prop up the coal industry and turn the struggling state around, and a tendency to mention his friend Donald J. Trump.

Since taking office, however, Mr. Justice has operated from his own political playbook. He has paired his coal-country credentials with an effort to raise some taxes and other revenue to avoid painful cuts, moves that have surprised members of both parties.

As Democrats around the country agonize over their path forward in ever-redder states like this one, Mr. Justice is facing off with Republicans while keeping distance between himself and his party’s tarnished national brand.

“His style may be different,” said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, a former governor who faces an uphill re-election battle next year.

But different is crucial for Democrats in states that are moving to the right as quickly as this one.

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