Republicans pick up 11 seats in W.Va. House
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Entering Tuesday night's election, the West Virginia Republican Party hoped to pick up eight seats in the House of Delegates, said party executive director Chad Holland.
When the dust settled the GOP had picked up 11, to hold 46 of the state's 100 seats.
"You're witnessing the transition of the political landscape in West Virginia," Holland said early Wednesday morning from the Embassy Suites in Charleston. "This is legitimately a two-party state now."
Six incumbent Democrats fell to Republican challengers, and Republicans took four seats from retiring Democrats.
Republican Danny Hamrick defeated Delegate Ron Fragale, the House's president pro tempore, to represent Harrison and Taylor counties in the 48th district. Delegate Stan Shaver was defeated by Randy Smith in Preston County, while Joshua Nelson unseated Delegate Larry Barker in Boone County. Delegate Helen Martin lost her Putnam County seat to Scott Cadle. In a redrawn, four-seat district representing Kanawha County, Suzette Raines and John McCuskey displaced Delegates Bobbie Hatfield and Bonnie Brown.
Other Republican newcomers include George "Boogie" Ambler of Greenbrier County, Roy Cooper of Summers County, John Shott of Mercer County and David Evans of Marshall County. Former GOP Delegate Cindy Frich, meanwhile, will return to the House, after winning a new seat added to Monongalia County.
Not everything went the Republicans' way. The GOP lost Delegate Walter Duke's seat when the incumbent fell to Democrat Jason Barrett in a Berkeley County House district. And Democrats still retained control of the House.
But Holland said the party's focus on gaining seats in the house will translate to positive momentum for the Republican Party in West Virginia.
"I think this is going to do a lot for the West Virginia Republican Party. We're now powerful player in the state," Holland said. "We're now extremely competitive in any election we have in this state."
The GOP lost several statewide races, include the governorship, and Holland said everyone always wants to do better. But overall he thought it was a phenomenal effort by his party, and the GOP expects to continue to gain ground in the 2014 election. With half of the 34-member Senate on the ballot, the GOP failed to field challengers to seven of the 11 incumbent Democrats running. Republican auto dealer Bill Cole won in a district dominated by Mercer County, upsetting Democratic Sen. Mark Wills. Another Republican, Chris Walters, bested Democrat Joshua Martin for a redrawn Senate seat representing Kanawha and Putnam counties that had been held by a Democrat.