GOP officials optimistic for majority goal
Republicans believe they have a good chance this year to finally get a majority in the state House of Delegates - something the GOP hasn't had since 1928.
Thirty of the 35 Republican House members are running for re-election this year. Another 52 GOP newcomers are also on the ballot.
Sixteen House races already were set to be up in the air earlier this year because of incumbents opting not to run again. With several other contested races, the GOP believes it has a good chance to gain ground.
"We have the issues on our side, we have the right candidates and we have momentum and energy like we've never had before," House Minority leader Tim Armstead said at a press conference at the state Capitol Wednesday.
"That is why I believe that it is completely within the realm of possibility that we will be in the majority in the next legislative session," Armstead said.
Flanked by current House members and several candidates on this November's ballot, Armstead and other GOP leaders laid out their legislative agenda for the next year, should they win a majority.
Armstead said the GOP would turn the state's economy around and create jobs.
"When you get into the campaign season, you hear a lot of rhetoric," Armstead said, "but you don't hear a lot of solutions."
He said the GOP's plan was established on the foundation of fair elections and open, ethical government. He said the party's candidates all supported a fair Voter ID law, as well as tougher government ethics reforms and a budget and spending transparency act.
To create jobs, he said the GOP is committed to reforming the state's tax code, including the elimination of the equipment and inventory tax on businesses and providing tax relief to seniors by increasing the state's Homestead Exemption.
He said the GOP is committed to comprehensive education reforms that included reducing bureaucratic red tape, ensuring all students attend at least 180 days of school and moving forward with recommendations from this year's education audit.
Armstead said the GOP also supports establishing an intermediate court of appeals and boosting the state's infrastructure by finding a long-term way to fund road construction and maintenance.
Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, has served as chairman of the Republican Legislative Conference this year. That group recruits and trains new candidates to run effective campaigns.
Nelson said the conference also has helped teach candidates how to conduct effective fundraisers and how to get the best strategic use of the money they raise.
"It's been a team effort," Nelson said. "Each one of our new candidates is committed to delivering on the conservative principles of our party.
"This happens to be one of our strongest benches ever," he said. "Eighty years of Democratic control has been enough. This team behind me is committed to making a change so that we can move West Virginia forward."
State GOP chairman Conrad Lucas said the party has seen "unprecedented excitement" ahead of the November election.
"We know Democrats are looking to vote for Republicans in unprecedented droves," Lucas said.
He said Republicans account for more than 40 percent of absentee ballot requests made so far in this election, even though only 29 percent of the state's registered voters are Republican.
Lucas said party volunteers have made more than 170,000 contacts with Democrats and independents who say they're disappointed in the Democratic Party.
"We ask that voters who typically might not have in the past, consider to vote Republican," he said.
Lucas said he has seen candidates going door-to-door making contacts and traditional West Virginia Democrats are more open to hearing about the Republican platform than in the past.
"I've seen these folks knock on doors and wave signs in the rain and the cold . . . facing what used to be tremendous uphill battles," he said. "But this time around, those doors are opening a lot faster when they hear that it's a Republican coming to that door."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.