BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Woody Thrasher says he doesn't share the same optimism for the economic future of the state as Governor Jim Justice.
Woody Thrasher challenges Governor Jim Justice for the Republican nomination in 2020. (Photo: WDTV)
The governor's positive outlook for the state's economy was largely criticized by Democrats after his State of the State address.
Thrasher said the governor exaggerated West Virginia's growth in that speech. In it, Justice compared the state's economy to an upward-facing lightning bolt.
Economists say that growth is concentrated in the North-Central and Eastern Panhandle regions.
Thrasher says the most important aspect holding the state back is population decline.
"37,000 people left the state of West Virginia during the three years this governor has been in office," Thrasher said. "It's like the two municipalities of Martinsburg and Fairmont together disappearing. We clearly aren't on the right track."
Thrasher also disagrees with the Governor's notion that roads are improving. Justice touted increased funding in road projects in the last 18 months in his State of the State address and the state's purchasing of new equipment for highways workers.
But he said the governor's solutions don't involve long-term plans to sustain quality road conditions.
"The governor has had a kneejerk reaction to a problem that needs a real specific plan that needs to be implemented and carried out year over year over year," Thrasher said. "His kneejerk reaction has been to pull money from various sources, which will not be duplicated, and therefore the longterm solutions are absolutely not in place to fix our roads."
Thrasher's full interview is attached to this story.