CHARLESTON - Two Republicans running for governor in 2020 reached deep into their own pockets last quarter in the early stages of a potentially expensive primary campaign.

Incumbent Gov. Jim Justice and challenger Woody Thrasher loaned themselves six-figure amounts between April 1 and June 30 - about $132,000 and $374,000, respectively.

Meanwhile, Stephen Smith, a candidate in the Democratic primary, raised more than $146,000 last quarter, driven by small donations and fundraisers across the country. This is more than what Justice and Thrasher raised last quarter combined.

Gov. Jim Justice

The sources of Justice's campaign funds are twofold: personal loans and a fundraiser featuring Donald Trump Jr., son of the president, that drew contributions from coal executives and others.

After spending $176,000 last quarter, the Justice campaign has $13,000 in its coffers, not accounting for more than $19,000 in unpaid bills to Encore Leasing LLC, which shares an address with several of his private companies.

Records show Justice loaned his campaign $131,500 spread over three installments.

In June, the campaign raised nearly $58,000 at a fundraiser. While invitations stated that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and West Virginia's three GOP members of the House of Representatives would attend, their spokespeople confirmed that they did not.

Reports show that several coal executives donated at the fundraiser, including White Forest Resources President and CEO Jeffrey Wilson ($2,000), Blackhawk Mining CEO and President John Potter ($2,800), West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney ($2,800) and the association's vice president, Jason Bostic ($2,000). Other industry executives and political action committees also donated money.

Additionally, Justice's general counsel, Brian Abraham, donated $1,000, as did state Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby.

Of the campaign's total spending, the vast majority (more than $142,000) went to three consultants for a mix of consulting, polling and hosting of the June 20 fundraiser.

Justice threw his personal fortune behind his 2016 election as well. Running as a Democrat, Justice loaned his campaign $3.85 million. Records show the campaign repaid those loans in full Feb. 28, 2017.

Woody Thrasher

While Thrasher raised only about $36,000 in the traditional (political) sense, he loaned his campaign nearly $374,000 in personal funds.

Eight people gave Thrasher's campaign donations of $250 or less. Twenty-six other contributions came in sizes between $500 and $2,800.

Six employees of The Thrasher Group, the candidate's engineering firm, made a total of 10 four-figure donations.

After spending a whopping $357,000 during the quarter, Thrasher's campaign has about $53,000 on hand, not accounting for its $1,000 in unpaid bills.

Large chunks of the campaign's spending went to consultants (about $184,000) and advertising (about $84,000).

Stephen Smith

A bird's-eye analysis of Democrat Smith's quarterly campaign filing captures his emphasis on small donors - his totals out at 83 pages, compared to Justice's (12) and Thrasher's (13).

Smith raised more than $146,000 during the quarter. Nearly $39,000 of this came from donations of $250 or smaller, while about $71,000 came from donations between $250 and $2,800.

The campaign's filing shows a strategy that includes zigzagging across the country to fundraisers for hauls large and small.

Some of the fundraiser destinations include a film studio in Brooklyn, New York; a restaurant in Chicago; a brewery in Columbus, Ohio; a union local in Los Angeles; a government affairs shop in Washington, D.C.; as well as several locales in West Virginia.

According to a campaign spokeswoman, Smith's campaign has received more than 2,449 small donations, more than any of the candidates in the Democratic Party's 2016 gubernatorial primary.

At a glance, the bulk of the campaign's line-item expenditures are listed as "travel expenses" and "paid workers."

Mike Folk

Former state House of Delegates member Mike Folk is running in the GOP primary as well.

He raised about $14,000 this quarter. After spending $6,800 of it, he has more than $16,000 on hand.


One Democrat, Jody Murphy, has announced his plans to run and filed pre-candidiacy paperwork. He has raised $95 for the race, according to his latest filing.

Nine other candidates have filed pre-candidacy papers as well.


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