West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice fired Democrat Gayle Manchin — the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin — Monday from her role as secretary of the state’s Department of Education and the Arts after she issued a statement calling on him to save her agency.
Justice, a former Democrat and close ally of President Donald Trump who switched to the Republican Party last year, is weighing whether to sign legislation passed by the Republican-led legislature that would close the agency. Justice said in a press release that Manchin made her views on the legislation known in a press release, even though she’d been asked not to.
“In her press release, she offered to resign and remove any political cloud. If there weren’t any earlier political cloud, now there surely is one. She was very critical, made it political, and put me in a very, very bad position,” Justice said in his own press release.
“She was told that we accepted her resignation, she refused, and we terminated her,” Justice also said.
Manchin is a former first lady of West Virginia and served on the state’s board of education from 2007 to 2015. Her husband is considered one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents in November’s midterm election.
The legislation would move the Department of Education and the Arts’ offices and programs to other state agencies and eliminate the secretary’s $95,000-a-year position, according to West Virginia Metro News. It is separate from the state’s education department, which is focused more on K-12 issues. The agency Manchin oversaw focused heavily on encouraging arts and culture.
In her statement, Manchin had called the legislation “reckless and politically motivated” and encouraged Justice to veto it. She said the agency she oversaw “serves thousands across our state; it helps the disabled, provides summer programs for our children through federal funding, and many others that touch families all over West Virginia.”
“I do not believe that a partisan fight is in the best interest of West Virginia. In fact, I know that signing this legislation will hurt our children, seniors, veterans, the disabled, and disaster response training. In addition, it eliminates a statewide advocacy for the arts,” she said. “I want to sit down with the Governor, and if it helps, I’ll resign to remove any political pressure to save all of these important programs for West Virginians.”
Justice said he’s still weighing whether to sign the bill.
“We are continuing to examine this legislation looking for cost savings, how to preserve and promote the arts, and to make absolutely, positively certain that none of the programs or our citizens will be harmed in any way,” Justice said. “And we will continue to do exactly that.”