W.Va. GOP Achieves ‘Supermajority’ In House of Delegates, Flips Several Dem Districts
This article was updated with information on more West Virginia House races on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 5:00 p.m.
Unofficial election results on Wednesday showed that House Republicans have won more than 70 districts, creating a "supermajority" for the next two years.
Not only did the majority party — which took over the West Virginia House in 2014 — retain all of its existing territories in Tuesday night’s election, but members also flipped historically blue areas, and knocked out a few incumbents from traditionally Democratic multi-member districts.
“Tonight was solid affirmation that West Virginians believe the bold, conservative leadership and ideas put forward by Republican members of the House of Delegates and other branches of government are the best path forward for our state,” said Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw in a written statement. Hanshaw was ahead in his own election by more than 1,100 votes.
Voter tallies aren’t official until after canvassing begins next week — that’s when county election officials audit their election process and verify ballot counts. But in several House races, the numbers show wide-margin victories for many GOP candidates.
“I didn't see any scenario under which we would get wiped out like we were last night,” said Del. Mick Bates, a Democrat who appeared to have won his campaign for re-election in Beckley, Raleigh County.
While Hanshaw attributed Tuesday’s results to the Republican party’s “aggressive agenda” that focuses on tax reform and business-friendly policies, Bates said West Virginia’s election outcomes were a reflection of Trump's popularity here.
“Our incumbent members, the fact that they’re not coming back, isn’t because their communities rejected them,” Bates said. “They’re not coming back because they had the wrong letter after their name.”
Either way, with a new single-district voting bill slated to take effect in the next election, the Republican majority has the ability to redraw district lines next year that will preserve their status.
A Southern Shift
The party’s biggest sweep occurred in southern West Virginia, a longtime Democratic area that overwhelmingly went for Trump in 2016.
In Boone County, Del. Rodney Miller, a Democrat and a former sheriff, was several hundred votes behind Republican Joshua Holstein, an undergraduate student at Marshall University bearing endorsements from West Virginia’s Trump-backed delegation.
Incumbent Dels. Jeffrey Campbell and Cindy Lavender-Bowe in Greenbrier County, who have both been in the House for three and two years respectively, lost to Republican challengers Todd Longanacre and Bruce Barry.
Republican candidates Jordan Bridges and Margitta Mazzocchi were part of a GOP takeover in Logan County, where one of two Democratic incumbents, Ralph Rodighiero, left to run for the state Senate.
Rodighiero similarly lost his Logan County race against Republican Rupie Phillips. Republicans also edged out Democratic incumbents in several southern multi-member districts, including Fayette and Wayne counties.
In the latter community, the Huntington Herald-Dispatch reported that voters elected their first Republican delegate, Derrick Evans, in nearly 100 years. Evans bore an endorsement from the West Virginia Troopers Association, despite reports of a restraining order against him for stalking and repeated threats of bodily injury.
Close Races And Canvassing
Several closely monitored House races produced some of the tightest results Tuesday night. In Jefferson County, incumbent Del. Sammi Brown, a Democrat, was less than 170 votes behind her Republican opponent Wayne Clark.
Races were even closer in District 16 — encompassing some of the Huntington area and Lincoln County — where candidates John Mandt Jr. and Mark Bates were roughly 70 votes apart.
Mandt resigned from the House of Delegates weeks before the election for anti-gay slurs and Islamaphobic remarks. Both he and Mark Bates are Republican.
Incumbent Dels. Sean Hornbuckle, a Democrat, and Daniel Linville, a Republican, were far ahead of the other four candidates in unofficial results early Wednesday morning.
In West Virginia’s larger, more populated districts, Republicans edged out longtime Democrats in counties like Marion, where the majority party flipped two of three formerly Democratic seats. And in Monongalia County, which was previously all Democrat, the party succeeded in electing one Republican out of five Delegates.
But in the Charleston-area’s multi-member districts, the Democratic party succeeded in tentatively electing two new members.
Democratic candidate Kayla Young won one of four seats in Kanawha County’s District 35, behind incumbent Dels. Moore Capito, a Republican, and Doug Skaff, a Democrat. Republican Larry Pack also won a seat in this district.
Next door in District 36, which also covers Kanawha County, new candidates Jim Barach, a Democrat, and Chris Pritt, a Republican, were ahead of others in their race. Incumbent Democrat Larry Rowe also appeared to win the district’s third House seat.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.