WHEELING, W.Va. — The West Virginia Republican Party grew by one on Monday when state Delegate Ryan Ferns from Ohio County changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and launched a campaign for the state Senate in the First District.
“I’ve just reached a point where I think that, for the betterment of West Virginia and my district, I think the Republican Party’s views are what’s best for the state, at this point,” said Ferns on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
He officially announced his plans on Monday morning in Wheeling and, later in the day, did the same in Charleston.
“For the past three years, I’ve served in the House of Delegates as a Democrat and I’ve tried to work across party lines with my Republican colleagues and, each time that I’ve done that, I’ve been met with opposition and push back from members of the leadership and Democratic Party,” said Ferns who has been a member of the House since 2010.
As for his constituents who elected him as a Democrat, “I’ve alway told them, regardless of party lines, I’m always going to do what I think is right for my district and for my state,” said Ferns.
House Speaker Tim Miley (D-48) said Monday he was “somewhat (though not totally) surprised” at the decision from Ferns. He claimed Ferns denied plans to change parties, as recently as a few weeks ago, when asked about the possibility directly.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed in Delegate Ferns’ decision, but in politics, some people say one thing and do another. Delegate Ferns has now done this on multiple occasions,” said Miley in a statement.
“I am left to wonder whether he is now taking this step in order to cash in on the promise of campaign funding that the Republican Party has made to many Democrats. In a day and age when there are fewer and fewer principled people in politics, I guess I should not be surprised,” Miley continued.
“Nonetheless, I wish him well and hope that he is sincere in his support of our efforts in helping small business and entrepreneurs flourish in West Virginia.”
Ferns was the only Democrat to vote against Miley when he was chosen to be the Speaker of the state House of Delegates earlier this year. At that time, Ferns said it was a protest vote to draw attention to bullying within House ranks and had nothing to do with Miley personally.
“I have the utmost respect for Tim and, the years that I’ve worked with him, I’ve found him to be a very reasonable, approachable person,” Ferns said back in June.
Conrad Lucas, the chairman of the state Republican Party, welcomed Ferns to the GOP in a statement. “Delegate Ferns had the courage to stand up for the Ohio Valley in Charleston and the independence to take tough stands regardless of party or issue,” said Lucas.
He continued, “West Virginia is in trouble thanks to liberals in Washington and those who do their bidding in Charleston. Men like Delegate Ferns rise to join us and defend this state’s jobs, families and future from (President Barack) Obama.”
Ferns, who is part of a physical therapy business in Wheeling, said he first ran for the House three years ago to help small business owners like himself. He said his campaign for the Senate, one that could pit him against Ohio County Senator Rocky Fitzsimmons (D-1), will be based on the same motivating factors.
“There was no one lined up, in this First Senate District, with the conservative values that I think are important for West Virginia,” said Ferns. “I’ve always said I will step up wherever I’m needed and, at this time, I think this is where I’m most needed.”