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Nick Casey out as Justice’s chief of staff

Gazette-Mail file photo
Nick Casey

Just 11 days after Gov. Jim Justice switched parties from Democrat to Republican, the governor’s chief of staff, Nick Casey, has been fired.

State Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam, was expected to be named as Casey’s replacement, according to multiple sources.

Casey’s departure is the first of what some expect to be several staffers leaving the governor’s administration.

Casey, former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, was treasurer of Justice’s 2016 campaign and widely viewed as a steady hand in the Governor’s Office.

In an email to the Gazette-Mail, Casey said Justice called him at 11:30 a.m. Monday and told him he was firing him because he had too many Democratic connections. Casey was in New York celebrating his 42nd wedding anniversary when he got the call from Justice.

“The governor wanted to announce it before I got back,” Casey said in the email. “Looks like he wanted to move fast.”

Justice announced Casey’s departure in a short statement Monday afternoon.

“Nick Casey is a friend and a good man,” Justice said in a news release. “There’s no question we all tried very hard during the legislative session to get things done. I wish we could have done better. I’ve given this a lot of thought and, going forward, I just didn’t see any pathway where it would work out.”

Justice said he would hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Capitol.

Earlier Monday, Justice’s multimedia editor, Marcus Constantino, submitted his resignation. Last week, Justice said he expected his press secretary, Grant Herring, to quit. Herring worked for numerous Democratic candidates in other states before joining Justice’s campaign as a spokesman, then later landed a spot in the administration. Last week, Justice’s policy director, Joey Garcia, requested an ethics exemption to seek a job in the private sector.

Casey, who oversaw day-to-day operations in the Governor’s Office, served as state Democratic Party chairman from 2004 to 2010. Four years later, Casey ran for the 2nd Congressional District seat vacated by Republican Shelley Moore Capito, who successfully ran for the U.S. Senate. Casey lost to Republican Alex Mooney, who still holds the office.

Casey previously worked as a lawyer and accountant in Charleston.

Justice announced his party switch on Aug. 3 during a rally for President Donald Trump in Huntington.

When news of Justice’s impending party switch broke, hours before the governor made the announcement, Casey told a Gazette-Mail reporter he didn’t know about it.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.

Justice later said he had given Casey a heads up about the party switch weeks earlier.

Democrats took Justice to task Monday for previously saying he didn’t plan to fire any staff members because of their party affiliation.

“First, he lied when he said Nick knew he was switching parties and, now, he’s been proven a liar once again when he told West Virginians that party affiliation didn’t matter in his office,” said Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore. “Less than two weeks after his party switch, his chief of staff, who is loyal and hardworking, has been let go simply because he is a Democrat.”

Republican leaders said Casey’s departure gives them hope that Justice will pursue a conservative agenda.

“Despite our political differences, Nick Casey was always cordial and professional in his meetings with legislative leadership, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “Staff changes are never easy, but I think it is an encouraging sign that the governor, shortly after changing his party affiliation, is making changes at the highest level of his staff.

“I hope this is a signal that he is looking to pursue a more conservative, Republican agenda for the remainder of his term in office — one that will more align with the agenda pursued by the Republican majorities in both houses of the Legislature.”

Casey was named Justice’s chief of staff on Dec. 5, and was the first person named to a post in the new Justice administration.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4869 or follow @ericeyre on Twitter.

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