The Senate Democratic campaign arm is preparing to file a lawsuit in an attempt to obtain West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) official schedule, according to a letter sent to the governor’s general counsel.
Justice is considered the top contender to face off against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in next year’s election if the incumbent Democrat decides to run.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) announced the suit after it twice filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records requests with the state in an attempt to access the calendars of Justice, his chief of staff, his deputy chief of staff and his general counsel in March shortly before he announced his Senate campaign.
J. Berkeley Bentley, Justice’s general counsel, blocked those requests both times, saying that none of the schedules were maintained “solely for official business” and likened them to drafts of schedules.
That prompted the DSCC to file a lawsuit in order to compel the governor’s office to release the schedules under the state’s FOIA law. DSCC counsel Jacquelyn Lopez argued that Bentley’s argument doesn’t hold weight and is not a valid exception to West Virginia FOIA law.
“Jim Justice cannot hide his work schedule — or lack thereof — from West Virginians, and this is an area which is sure to receive further scrutiny in his nasty primary,” DSCC spokesperson David Bergstein said in a statement.
Seeking schedules of this sort is a standard move by opposition researchers as they dig into information they can use against opposing candidates.
Manchin has said he will wait until December to decide on whether to seek a third full term.
Roman Stauffer, Justice’s campaign manager, accused Democrats of attempting to interfere with the GOP Senate primary in support of Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) as they believe Manchin would have a better chance of defeating him in next year’s election.
“Chuck Schumer and the Democrats have seen the polling that shows Governor Jim Justice winning this race and are in panic mode,” Stauffer said in a statement. “They want Alex Mooney as the Republican nominee because they can beat him. The Democrats see that Governor Justice will be West Virginia’s next U.S. senator and will likely help Mooney in the Republican primary election.”