"It was mostly a house of cards that was destined to end up in the position — you have a state where the No. 1 employer is Walmart," he said, noting that the retail chain pays some employees so little that they qualify for government assistance.
Johnson's theme for much of the past few years has been that companies "privatize profit and socialize debt." Among the debts are environmental cleanup costs the public gets stuck with after profitable companies pull out.
He said Tomblin and Manchin both lead with the "cockamamie idea" that government should be run like a business.
"It's a historically asinine statement," Johnson said. "Government is there to protect the people from business, to keep business in check and to make sure it operates for the good of the people."
Johnson said he would end mountaintop mining and put the thousands of suddenly jobless surface miners to work cleaning up mine sites.
That would shut down roughly 100 surface mines. Johnson said mechanization has cost more miners their jobs than regulations. Surface mining is among the most efficient forms of mining in that it requires relatively little manpower, but it remains a significant contributor to the state's economy.
"Automatically, more miners, hopefully union miners, will have to take up the slack, and they will be put to work going underground," Johnson said.
But industry officials have said some coal seams cannot be profitably mined underground and that's why they use surface mining.
Johnson said he would end drilling in the Marcellus shale "until it can be done safely." That would likely cost thousands of jobs, too. Johnson contends, as do unions, that a good portion of those jobs is going to out-of-state residents anyway.
He also would try to set up a trust fund fed by money from extraction industries.
Asked how he would deal with resulting budget shortfalls and mass layoffs, Johnson said, "These things will be made up rather quickly."
He said the eventual results would be better than the "19th Century model" he sees West Virginia following now.
He also wants to bury power lines to prevent widespread outages.
He wants to turn to geothermal energy for the state's future. Scientists have identified the state as good source of that form of energy, which uses the earth's internal heat to generate electricity.
"All families in West Virginia? Free energy," Johnson said. "All new businesses — start ups — get to start right here in West Virginia with free energy. Now, will that pull in jobs?"