CHARLESTON – West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts said the 2016 election revealed West Virginians’ dissatisfaction with existing government.
"Nov. 8, 2016, was historic for West Virginia and the nation,” Roberts said in a Nov. 9 Chamber of Commerce news release. “West Virginians went to the polls in heavy numbers and sent a clear message that they are dissatisfied with the status quo."
President-elect Donald J. Trump won the state with nearly 68 percent of the vote while others who promised similar changes to Trump were also elected at the state level.
“[Democrat] Jim Justice, a businessman and coal operator who owns the Greenbrier Resort, who like Trump has never previously sought public office, was elected governor of West Virginia,” the press release said. “Republicans also made significant gains by winning races for attorney general, secretary of state, auditor and commissioner of agriculture.”
The chamber's news release explained that in both houses of the West Virginia Legislature races were won by candidates who support job creation and economic development.
“The West Virginia State Senate will have a 22-12 Republican majority,” the news release said. “Sixty-three of the 100 seats in the West Virginia House of Delegates were won by Republicans. Eighty-nine percent of legislative candidates who were endorsed by the West Virginia Chamber PAC were successful.”
Roberts motivation for job creation and economic development in West Virginia is nothing new. In a Sept. 9, 2015, op-ed published through the chamber’s website, Roberts said voters were looking for change and there were several hot debates about the future of coal in the state. He argued that liberal critics considered the chamber’s agenda to be “extreme.”
“The chamber’s agenda is ‘extreme’ only to the interests that have been holding this state back for too long,” Roberts said in his op-ed. “For the GOP — and most of this state’s voters — it’s a sensible path forward.”
In an Aug. 6, 2015 op-ed, Roberts said many West Virginians were surprised to learn that the state’s highest wages were paid in counties that produce the most coal.
“During the 10-year coal boom, the highest average annual earnings to workers came from Boone County, then our largest coal producer,” Roberts said. “As U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules take effect, the picture for many West Virginia working families darkens. The Democratic Party platform calls for electricity production that would require 50 percent less coal use in the foreseeable future.”
West Virginians hope Trump will boost the coal industry. In a Nov. 19 campaign news release, Justice said he discussed the state's coal industry concerns with Trump in a congratulatory phone call.
“President-elect Donald J. Trump called Governor-elect Jim Justice to congratulate him on his victory, and to discuss how to revive West Virginia’s coal industry,” the campaign news release said. “The 15-minute phone conversation focused primarily on how the two could work together to put coal miners back to work.”
Much like Roberts, Justice also sees the recent election as a message to status quo politicians.
“It’s an exciting day for West Virginia because we now have a pathway to the White House and a president-elect who is totally committed to putting our coal miners back to work,” Justice said in his news release. “President-elect Trump made it clear that he won’t forget about West Virginia when it comes to our nation’s energy policies. I will work closely with the president-elect and his administration on clean coal technology, rolling back the job-killing EPA regulations on coal and growing West Virginia’s other job opportunities.”