No doubt President Donald Trump’s popularity in West Virginia did help “down-ballot” Republican candidates last Tuesday. But more was at play in successes enjoyed by the GOP in state Legislature races.
Already in control of both the state Senate and House of Delegates, Republicans achieved supermajorities in both houses on Tuesday. The party added three state senators, giving Republicans a total of 23 seats to Democrats’ 11.
In the House, Republicans now have a better than three-to-one advantage as a result of picking up 18 seats in the election. The balance when new delegates take office next year will be 76-24.
State Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore laid the landslide at Trump’s feet. “I think folks came out and voted for Trump and just kept going down the line,” she said. Again, that did have some effect on voting.
But House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, was more perceptive. The election “solid affirmation that West Virginians believe the bold, conservative leadership” by Republicans is “the best path forward for our state,” he commented.
A significant number of Mountain State voters think about their choices for the Legislature, rather than simply voting for candidates of the same party as their preference for president. We could see that right here in Ohio County, where Democrat Del. Shawn Fluharty won re-election, defeating a Republican. The same thing occurred in many other counties where Trump gained majorities — but Democrats won state Legislature posts.
Hanshaw is right: West Virginians have had several years of Republican domination of the Legislature to pass judgment on the party’s conservative, in general, approach to state government. Clearly, a hefty majority of voters believe changing from 80-plus years of Democratic Party control was a good idea.
That should give lawmakers and Gov. Jim Justice confidence in planning for the upcoming legislative session. Voters want more of what they have seen during the past three and one-half years.