by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON – Today, Governor Jim Justice announced that State Senator Mike Hall of Putnam County will serve as his new chief of staff. The appointment will become effective Monday, August 21.
Hall’s selection follows upheaval caused by the sudden announcement two weeks ago that Justice was switching his political party registration from Democrat to Republican. In office just over six months, the announcement set off a wave of condemnation from some state Democrats.
Many, like former State Senate President Jeff Kessler and ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who lost to Justice in the 2016 primary, claimed that Justice had always been a Democrat in name only. They pointed out that he had been a registered Republican before running for governor. He defeated former Senate President Bill Cole in the general election.
Logan State Senator Richard Ojeda denounced Justice and launched a petition drive in favor of referendum and recall in West Virginia. He said he would introduce a bill to institute referendum and recall during the 2018 legislative session.
Although it took about ten days, Justice summarily dismissed his previous chief of staff, Democrat Nick Casey. The governor informed Casey he was being dismissed via a phone conversation while Casey was celebrating his 43rd wedding anniversary in New York City. Casey, a former state Democrat party chair and the 2014 nominee for second district congress, said Justice told him he was “too identified” with the Democrat party.
When Justice made his switch, state politicos argued that he could not continue to surround himself with a staff made up of Democrat activists. Some have left on their own since Justice became a Republican.
Others, such as former Kanawha County Commissioner David Hardy have hired several well-known Democrats since assuming his position as Secretary of Finance.
“Mike Hall has a reputation for being able to work with everybody,” said Gov. Justice. “He has an analytical mind and knows the ins and outs of the budget and budget process. That, and the fact that there is not a more respected man in the legislature than Mike Hall really helped me make my decision.”
Hall, of Winfield, has represented the State’s 4th Senatorial District since 2006. Prior to that he was elected to six terms in the House of Delegates. He most recently served as the chair of the Senate Finance Committee and as vice chair of the Education, Banking and Insurance, Pensions, and Rules committees.
“I am honored that Governor Justice has placed his trust in me, and I am eager to begin serving the people of West Virginia in this new role,” Hall said. “While it was an incredibly difficult decision for me to leave the Senate, I could not imagine a greater opportunity to use all I have learned during my time in the Legislature than this. I am confident the Governor is putting together the pieces he needs for a strong team that will continue to advance his vision and hopes for West Virginia.”
Hall will resign his position as senator. It eventually be up to the governor to pick a replacement.