And his decision to switch signals to West Virginia voters that they matter more to him than party politics. State residents have cast a majority of votes for the Republican presidential candidate in the last four elections.
"My priorities have not changed," Jenkins said. "My party has changed."
Jenkins' switch gives the people of the 3rd District a choice between a strong candidate with a record of promoting fiscal conservatism and a competent long-term officeholder.
Besides Kessler, other Democratic leaders were quick to condemn Jenkins, resorting to name-calling and character assassination. Rahall called him a "flip-flopper" and a "traitor."
Smearing Jenkins' name is probably not good strategy for the Democratic Party. Like Jenkins, many West Virginia Democrats hunger for economic growth and oppose much of President Barack Obama's agenda.
A smear campaign could get those Democrats to realize that they have more in common with the Republican Party.
Perhaps Jenkins' move is the first of several, and may lead to the potential of a two-party system in West Virginia after more than 80 years.