Ohio County Democratic Delegate Ryan Ferns on Monday announced he is switching his party affiliation and will run for state Senate as a Republican in 2014.
"I've been a Democrat my whole life," Ferns, 30, told reporters. "My family was always Democrats, but I really think the Democratic Party has changed from the time my family got involved."
The state has been under Democratic Party rule in the Legislature since the 1930s.
During that time, the state built massive public pension debt as Democrats couldn't say no to state employees and unions, elected state Supreme Court justices, who continuously sided with plantiffs over business seemingly no matter what the case, and created a tax structure that discouraged business investment.
Fortunately, election of more conservative Democrats along with more Republicans the past dozen years or so is helping to right the state. In recent years the Legislature is reversing some of its most liberal anti-business policies and doing better at getting its fiscal house in order.
Still, whether one is Democrat or Republican, continued movement toward a two-party state is a positive change in West Virginia. Just like having multiple grocery stores to shop at helps to keep market prices low, having healthy political competition helps to keep elected officials honest and on track toward better governance.
Ferns is not alone. In late July, State Sen. Evan Jenkins announced he was switching to the Republican Party and will run for the U.S. House seat held for 35 years by Democrat Nick Joe Rahall.
Other recent party switches from Democrat to Republican in the Mountain State include Clarksburg City Coucilwoman Margaret Bailey and Harrison County Board of Education President Mike Queen.
Tuesday, 60 days before the January 25 filing deadline to run for office in 2014, was the last day for any potential candidates to change their party affiliation.
The state Republican party has been recruiting conservative Democrats. The GOP should continue to do so, but may have turned some potential switchers off with negative attacks on conservative-to-moderate Democrats like U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tombin.
Rather than attacks, the Republicans will do better in recruiting candidates and voters by communicating the benefits of a conservative agenda that seeks limited government, fiscal responsibility and individual rights.