Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango won the Democratic nomination for governor of West Virginia on Tuesday, setting up a November showdown with incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Justice.
Salango narrowly defeated progressive community organizer Stephen Smith to win the Democratic nomination. Justice, a billionaire coal and agricultural businessman, trounced Woody Thrasher, former state lawmaker Mike Folk and others to win the GOP nomination.
As a commissioner of the state’s most populated county, Salango had emphasized his experience in government throughout his campaign, which has pulled in endorsements from organized labor, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and former Gov. Gaston Caperton.
“This is the first step. Tomorrow morning we start working on the general,” Salango said as he declared victory at his Charleston campaign headquarters.
Justice made President Donald Trump a centerpiece of his re-election bid, frequently name-dropping the president in campaign ads and during his daily coronavirus news conferences that were watched by thousands of people.
The Republican Governors Association (RGA) released the following statement from RGA Executive Director Dave Rexrode on the results of West Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial primary:
“Liberal trial lawyer Ben Salango couldn’t be more wrong for West Virginia. From supporting tax hikes on small businesses and working families, to opposing expanded educational opportunities for West Virginia kids, Ben Salango would turn back the incredible progress that the Mountain State has seen under Governor Jim Justice’s leadership.
“Ben Salango is beholden to the special interests that are funding his campaign and represents a Democratic Party that is embracing increasingly extreme policies like the job-killing Green New Deal and the dangerous ‘defund the police’ movement. Ben Salango and his fellow Democrats are completely out-of-touch with West Virginia values.”