Governor's party switch is 2017 top story in West Virginia

President Donald Trump talks with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice during a rally Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, in Huntington, W.Va. Justice, a Democrat, announced that he is switching parties to join the Republicans. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Gov. Jim Justice’s switch from the Democratic to the Republican party has been voted the top news story in 2017 in West Virginia by Associated Press member newspapers and broadcasters.

Justice defeated Republican state Sen. President Bill Cole last year. At an August rally with President Donald Trump in Huntington, Justice announced his move to the GOP, saying that Democrats in the Legislature had “walked away” from him.

A voter referendum allowing the state to issue bonds to repair and build roads and bridges was rated the second-biggest story, and the struggles to get a state budget passed was third.

Legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana was fourth, followed by lawsuits against prescription drug distributors in attempts to recoup the costs of dealing with opioid abuse.

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