Republican Resurgence in W.Va. House of Delegates

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Sweeping changes could be in store in the West Virginia Legislature after the GOP gained 11 seats in the House.

For years, Democrats held and overwhelming majority. Now House Republicans control 46 of the 100 seats.

Winning her district, young Republican Suzette Raines is one of the newest members of the Legislature in the newly formed 35th District. She's just one of a handful of candidates who has shaken up the majority. John McCusky was also voted in.

"I'm really excited to be part of that team and be part of that solution to move West Virginia forward," Suzette Raines (R) said.

With that change, however, comes disappointment. Two longtime House of Delegates members -- Democrats Bonnie Brown and Bobbie Hatfield -- were both defeated. They've represented Kanawha County for years and were running in the newly formed 35th District.

"There's a sadness there -- a sadness that I wouldn't be able to champion my causes," Bobbie Hatfield (D) said. "And a lot of my causes was representing people that didn't have a voice."

Republicans say the voice of the people has been ignored for decades. They say issues like tax reform, education reform and legal reforms can finally take center stage this upcoming legislative session.

"We've been trying to do these things for years but they've been blocked time and time again by the Democratic leadership," House Minority Leader Republican Tim Armstead said. "I think the people really realize that if we're going to make significant changes in West Virginia we're going to have to change who represents them."

GOP leaders say the last time they've even come close to having this many members was in the 1970s. They say the gains in this election will be felt in this upcoming session.

"I think you're seeing throughout the state a recognition that the Republican party and the ideas of the Republican party really do represent the ideas of West Virginians," Armstead said.

The Democrats were able to keep control of the House 36th District.

"I think you see a Democrat majority reaching out to the people trying to give them a hand up so they can benefit from the good laws we pass," Hatfield said.

Republican leaders say they predict a major shift this legislative session and that could mean at the top with the Speaker of the House. They say they hope to build on the momentum from this election and make even bigger gains in 2014 and 2016.

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