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W.Va. Gov. Justice announces at Trump rally: He's becoming a Republican

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announces at President Donald Trump's rally Thursday in Huntington that he is switching from Democrat to Republican. (CNN Newsource)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) - President Donald Trump coming to West Virginia is not a switch in plans. He has been here twice in about 10 days. News announced about the state’s governor is quite the switch – Jim Justice is switching parties.

At Trump’s rally Thursday in Huntington, Justice, a conservative Democrat, announced that he is changing his party affiliation to that of the president and will become a Republican.

"Today I will tell you with lots of prayers and lots of thinking. Today I will tell you as West Virginians, I can't help you anymore as a Democrat governor," Justice said after Trump gave him the podium to speak. “So tomorrow, I will be changing my registration to Republican.”

Justice, who coaches high school basketball in Greenbrier County, said as a coach, “I will tell you it’s time to run another play.”

Justice cited his disappointment with Democrats during the past West Virginia legislative session, and he said the actions in passing a budget hurt a lot of people such as veterans, the disabled and seniors.

“The last session, some greatness passed with our roads and so on, but there was a lot of pain,” he said.

The governor spoke about his friendship with Trump and his children and said he had been to the Oval Office twice recently to discuss an idea he has with coal and manufacturing.

“This man is a good man,” Justice said of Trump. “He’s got a backbone. He’s got real ideas. He cares about us in West Virginia. He cares about America.”

Meanwhile, Trump entered the Big Sandy Superstore Arena stage to rousing cheers. People dotting the crowd had signs that included messages such as “Drain the Swamp” and “Women for Trump.”

The president mentioned that during his visit to West Virginia during the campaign he promised to bring coal mining back. He said he has kept that promise, ending the war on coal and the unreasonable regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He said coal exports in the United States are up 60 percent this year.

“I love your coal miners and they are coming back strong,” Trump said.

During his remarks, the president ticked off positive economic indicators, saying the stock market Thursday reached an all-time high and unemployment is at a 16-year low. He also said that economic growth has surged to 2.6 percent and West Virginia is at 3 percent.

“West Virginia, you are leading the country’s average. When is the last time that happened? I’m so proud of you,” Trump said.

Trump’s campaign rally in Huntington marks the second visit to the Mountain State in about 10 days. On July 24, the president was in Fayette County to speak to about 40,000 staff, volunteers and Boy Scouts attending the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree.

While he praised the Scouts during the speech, his talk focused largely on politics. His remarks drew some criticism and prompted the Boy Scouts to issue an apology to those who were offended by the president’s speech.

Later, Trump said the head of the youth group had called to praise him for his remarks, but the Boy Scouts issued a statement denying that such a call had happened. A Trump spokeswoman then clarified the president’s comments, saying that multiple Boy Scout leaders had approached the president in person after his speech to praise it.

In a May 5, 2016 appearance in Charleston, while he was on the presidential primary campaign trail, Trump vowed to bring coal jobs back.

"I think you're amazing people," Trump told audience members gathered at a packed Charleston Civic Center. "If I win, we're going to bring those miners back, and you're going to be so proud of your president."

The West Virginia Coal Association presented Trump with a hardhat during his appearance last year. Trump spoke about his admiration for coal miners and he promised to take unnecessary regulations off the table.

Watch the complete rally here.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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