A longtime Democratic West Virginia state senator from Boone County filed pre-candidacy papers Monday to run for governor.
Ron Stollings, a physician, joined the race to challenge incumbent Gov. Jim Justice, who was elected as a Democrat in 2016 and is seeking reelection as a Republican.
In a news release, Stollings said that, in his 34 years in medicine, he’s seen the opioid crisis from the front lines, a problem he’d take the lead on as governor. He proposed creating a “Governor’s Office of Substance Abuse” to centralize state efforts in one location.
“How do we know how much we should receive in settlement dollars if we don’t know how much prevention and treatment programs will cost?” he said. “This should be an effort coordinated by the governor, in the Governor’s Office.”
Stollings is entering the race without much risk. He is not up for reelection to the Senate and could return to his current seat after a loss, which he has held since 2006.
He is the first Capitol insider to announce plans to seek the Democratic nomination. Stephen Smith, a progressive organizer, announced plans to run in late 2018 and has shown a knack for small-dollar fundraising since then.
In the Republican primary, former state delegate Mike Folk and Justice’s former Commerce secretary, Woody Thrasher, have announced plans to challenge the governor.
Fourteen candidates have filed pre-candidacy for governor, most showing little activity in terms of spending or fundraising, with the exception of Smith, Thrasher, Justice and Folk.
Stollings is the first to jump into the race since Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced his intention to stay in the U.S. Senate, after publicly mulling over a challenge to Justice.