West Virginia’s Governor Jim Justice announced Thursday that he is trading his Democratic Party affiliation for a Republican label.
"Let me just say this to you as bluntly as I can say it, West Virginia," he said in Huntington at a rally alongside President Trump. "At the altar when we had done it, like it or not like it, but the Democrats walked away from me."
"Now today I would tell you with lots of prayers and lots of thinking, today I will tell you as West Virginians, I can't help you any more being a Democratic governor," he added. "So tomorrow I will be changing my registration to Republican."
Trump earlier Thursday purportedly promised reporters a “very big announcement” as his gathering in Huntington later that night.
Justice was elected last year in West Virginia, a state which Trump reportedly won by about 42 points during the 2016 presidential election.
Some Twitter users on Thursday poked fun at the Democrats for losing Justice, who is a billionaire coal and real estate magnate.
Other people on the social media platform blasted Justice, a conservative Democrat who did not back Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, over Trump last year.
Justice reportedly has warm ties to several members of Trump’s family, and he had previously registered as a Republican, Democrat and Independent.
The West Virginia governor also purportedly donated to both Democrats and Republicans before assuming his current role.
Democrats have sometimes found success in West Virginia, according to the Times, despite the state’s emergence as a Republican stronghold.
Justice swapping parties, meanwhile, would increase the distance separating Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) from his own party.
Manchin has long resisted GOP calls to join their ranks and boost their party’s two-seat majority in the Senate.
Some Trump administration officials also reportedly urged him to join the president’s Cabinet, but the senator withstood those overtures as well.
Manchin now heads to a 2018 reelection campaign without the backing of a Democratic governor in his home state.
“Joe Manchin has been and always will be a proud West Virginia Democrat,” said Jonathan Kott, Manchin’s communications director.
Appalachian states like West Virginia gave Trump some of his biggest margins of victory over Clinton in the 2016 race.