HUNTINGTON - With the West Virginia primary election less than two months away U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin has made his feelings clear when it comes to who he thinks should be the next governor of West Virginia.

Manchin, a Democrat, on Wednesday endorsed gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Resort and a man Manchin said he has supported for a long time.

"The Democrats have three uniquely qualified people," Manchin said during a meeting with The Herald-Dispatch Editorial Board. "I know the challenges we face as a state and for that reason I am supporting Jim Justice because I believe that he is the one to create opportunities."

Justice is running against former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler in the May 10 Democratic primary. The winner will face state Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, in the November general election.

During the editorial board session, Manchin discussed several other issues, including lawmakers' actions in West Virginia, a stalled Supreme Court nomination in the U.S. Senate and the race to become president of the United States.

Manchin was not one to mince words when speaking about the recent West Virginia legislative session. He said state delegates and senators pushed an outside social agenda which was upsetting and cause for concern, especially the bill that allows residents over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without obtaining a permit.

"When you have the people that are looking to protect you every day, someone in uniform, a policeman that says 'Please don't do this,' you're altering how they are going to protect you," he said. "It is going to change their whole way of policing. Now that's just pure crazy and I'm a gun person, I love guns."

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the bill once it reached his desk, but the legislature pulled an override.

Manchin was also critical of his colleagues in Washington who have stalled the vetting process for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

He said it seems as if the Republican-led Senate would be content to take the whole year off and have them do nothing with the nomination, something Manchin does not support.

Instead, he said he is looking to performing his duties as a senator, properly vetting Garland and asking him questions that most West Virginians have on their mind.

The stalled nomination is due to the 2016 presidential election, which Manchin took a stance on as well, putting his support behind Hillary Clinton, who he said was the most qualified candidate.

Earlier in the month the two were at odds after an interview with CNN when Hillary said she was going to "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

Manchin said he called Clinton, telling her that what she said was horrific to the state of West Virginia.

A few days later, Clinton apologized in a letter to Manchin, saying "Simply put, I was mistaken in my remarks. I wanted to make the point that, as you know too well, while coal will be part of the energy mix for years to come, both in the U.S. and around the world, we have already seen a long-term decline in American coal jobs and a recent wave of bankruptcies as a result of a changing energy market - and we need to do more to support the workers and families facing these challenges."

As far as the Republican side of the race, Manchin said it's like going to a NASCAR race just to see a wreck.

"(This presidential race) is extremely different than anything I've seen in my life," he said.

During his time in Cabell County Wednesday, Manchin also meet with the Coalfield Development Corporation, the Barboursville Rotary Club and took a tour of Recovery Point of Huntington.


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