Ex-W.Va commerce secretary Thrasher running for governor

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — ormer West Virginia commerce secretary Woody Thrasher is running for governor.

The Republican businessman announced his 2020 bid Tuesday in a statement that highlighted his company's success while taking aim at his Republican opponent Gov. Jim Justice.

"We deserve a full-time governor who is ready, willing and able, around the clock, to bring us jobs, to fix our roads and to preserve our conservative values," Thrasher said in a statement.

Thrasher and his father founded of an engineering company in 1983 that has since grown to have about 700 employees and offices in seven states.

"We need real leadership that creates economic growth to bring jobs and keep our young people here," he said.

Justice forced Thrasher out of the commerce department last year after numerous complaints about poor management of a housing assistance program for 2016 flood victims.

"The governor fights for the taxpayers of this state and won't tolerate waste and abuse, which is why he demanded that Mr. Thrasher resign," Justice's campaign manager Mike Lukach said shortly after Thrasher announced his candidacy.

Thrasher's move comes as the governor staffs up his own reelection effort with current and former associates of President Trump. Justice on Monday said he hired Lukach, a former state campaign director for Trump, as well as two of the president's advisers to work on his 2020 team.

The governor has been rocked by a series of damaging news stories. Last week, a federal subpoena into the governor's posh resort was made public, some state Republican committees recently voted in resolutions of "no confidence" in him and a Forbes investigation into the governor's debts called him a "deadbeat billionaire."

Below is the statement issued by Mike Lukach, Campaign Manager for Governor Jim Justice in response to Thrasher's announcement:

We welcome the entry of Mr. Thrasher into the 2020 Republican Primary.

When Governor Justice appointed Mr. Thrasher as the Secretary of Commerce, the Governor, and all West Virginians, expected him to put the people of this state above his own interests. It’s sad that the opposite happened. Instead, Mr. Thrasher used his appointed position to travel all over the world on the taxpayers’ dime to promote the private companies of his friends, and at the same time, forgot about the RISE flood relief program and all the West Virginians still recovering from the 2016 floods. The Governor fights for the taxpayers of this state and won’t tolerate waste and abuse, which is why he demanded that Mr. Thrasher resign.

Under Governor Justice’s conservative leadership, this state has gone from bankruptcy to prosperity. Governor Justice has worked with President Trump to cut taxes, eliminate wasteful spending and create jobs. The Governor is going to continue working every day to protect West Virginia from the abuse of politicians like Mr. Thrasher.”