Justice, who recently bought back his Bluestone operations from Russian miner Mechel after first selling them to the company in 2009, confirmed his plans at a gathering May 11 at the White Sulphur Springs Civic Center.
After weeks of speculation, the executive is the second to throw his hat into the proverbial ring for the seat; current state Senator Jeff Kessler is also running. Former state governor and current state senator Joe Manchin, who had been mulling over a potential run, announced in early May he would not seek the seat again.
Current governor Earl Ray Tomblin, also a Democrat, is barred from seeking re-election in 2016 due to term limit outlines. No Republicans have yet officially entered the race.
“[I support] an all-of-the-above energy approach which promotes growth in coal, natural gas and wind energy to create jobs and prepare West Virginia for the future,” Justice said in a statement.
The executive, also well known in the region for his ownership of the Greenbrier resort, told the crowd Monday that he chose to run because it was time for someone to turn things around.
“Our state and our people are hurting, and we need somebody to step forward that doesn’t have a vested interest in trying to do something for themselves and do something,” he said, adding that while he did not have any “magic potions” he would focus on job creation (his buyback of Bluestone could itself add 150 new jobs to the state’s coal fields in the near term).
“This is all about one thing, and that’s jobs,” Justice said. “If you don’t have a job, it all falls by the wayside.”