CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The leadership in the West Virginia House of Delegates is in play for the first time since the 1930s.

That’s how long Democrats have held the majority in the 100-member House. But two years ago the Republicans surprised most state political observers by turning around 11 seats to cut the Democratic margin to 54-46. Since then the Republicans picked up a defection leaving the margin heading into the 2014 election cycle at 53-47.

The Republicans are so close to the majority they can taste it and they are sporting a number of candidates with impressive credentials in Tuesday’s primary.

West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said these aren’t just candidates to fill the ballots but these are top-flight candidates.

“It was so important this year for Republicans to make sure we had folks who were ready to govern,” Lucas said. “We’re fully prepared to be in leadership positions in both the House and state Senate this year.”

Longtime Kanawha County Vera McCormick has watched the ballots for years and she can’t remember a time when the Republican candidates have sported the credentials this group does.

“We have doctors, pharmacists—there is a good slate this year,” McCormick said.

Republicans are getting a jump start on the general election. There are already 12 seats virtually guaranteed to be filled by Republicans because are no Democrats in those races. That number could be as high as 15 virtually guaranteed spots heading into the fall vote. On the other hand, Republicans didn’t let any Democrat-held seat go unopposed.

What will it take for Democrats to maintain control or for Republicans to gain the four-seats they need to wrest control of the House away from the Dems?

West Virginia Wesleyan Political Science Professor Robert Rupp said the determining factor between whether Democrats hold on to the House or lose it to the GOP could come down to a race or two either way.

“It was eight years before Jerry West was even born the Democrats took over the state legislature so in that case we’ve got to look at all of these individuals races because that could be the main story coming out of this, a big transition,” Rupp said.

If Republicans are going to gain the seats necessary to gain the majority all Republican incumbents would have to win, the GOP would have to maintain the two seats it holds in District 10 in Wood County where Republicans John Ellem and Tom Azinger decided not to run again and they would also have to keep the seat currently held by Del. Ryan Ferns in Ohio County.

There are some areas where the GOP could pick up some seats currently held by Democrats where the incumbents decided not to seek reelection. Those include Del. Mary Poling in Barbour County, Del. Brady Paxton in Putnam County and Del. Kevin Craig in Cabell County. Kanawha County Delegate Doug Skaff is running for state Senate.

In order for Democrats to maintain the House majority its members would need to hold on to their seats and pick up some victories like the aforementioned two seats in Wood County, maintain the seats they’ve held for years in Barbour, Putnam and Cabell counties and knock off some Republican delegates in single delegate districts who are running for reelection for the very first time.

West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio doesn’t believe the anti-Obama factor that was around in 2012 will work this time for Republican candidates.

“While I think that will be used again and they’ll attempt to use it, I really don’t think that folks believe that a House of Delegate member who will probably never meet the president or know him whatsoever would have any tie at all to him and they will still vote for their local guy,” Puccio said.

But Republicans appear enthused. Case in point, in the 36th district in eastern Kanawha County, which has been a Democratic stronghold for years, each party will nominate three candidates to the general election Tuesday night. There are four Democrats running for those three seats and seven Republican candidates seeking those three nominations.

In MetroNews Talkline hosts Hoppy Kercheval’s January 9, 2013 column some numbers were cited that may tell us more about this turnaround.

“The number of Democratic votes for House of Delegates candidates is trending downward. It reached 923,000 in 2004, dropped slightly in 2008, then plummeted to 577,000 in the last election. Meanwhile, the number of votes cast for Republican House members has been generally trending upward. Republican House candidates received 36,000 more votes in 2012 than 2008, while Democratic House candidates received 324,000 fewer votes.”

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said he’s been reminded time and time again politics is a funny game with no guarantees–but he believes Republicans will win control of the House of Delegates in November.

“I think the Republicans are much more motivated and the Democrats are somewhat downtrodden and feel like they don’t have anywhere to go or anybody to vote for and a bunch of these Republicans are going unchallenged,” Jones said. “There could be a few Democrats recapture seats but I think a lot more Republicans will.”

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  • Jerry Mays

    WV has the opportunity to become America's Switzerland. Drop tax requirements for businesses like Switzerland did, and financial and construction will soar. WV has everything that is needed to become an economic giant on the East Coast. All that is needed is for the philosophy of the state to change. Since the Depression, Mountaineers have had their hands out to the Federal Government for their livelihood. Byrd droppings for 50 years rather than personal responsibility. It is time for the state to be rid of this orphan, poor cousin personality that has hampered personal growth. Mountaineers know how to work, but decades of Democrat enslavement to assure continuation of their power and control have prevented people from having the opportunity to become self-reliant, productive citizens. There is no other antidote to the self-deprecation that has infected West Virginians than throwing off the yoke that the Democrats have fashioned.

    • ViennaGuy

      - All that is needed is for the philosophy of the state to change. -

      Yes indeed. Well stated!

  • L. K.

    The republicans are missing a huge piece of this puzzle. While Democrats might not be what people want, Republicans seem to be even less appealing.

    You can't win, if you are scarier than what is already in place.

  • Taylor

    Republicans are crazy. No way they will win West Virginia.

  • Richard

    Thanks to the democrat party we are dead last in everything. It is time for a change I see this state becoming a sea of red.

  • Jeremy Bauserman

    Republicans will win a US Senate seat in WV and probably gain control of the House of Delegates given the quality of candidates we have recruited to run. Very excited about this election for us in the GOP and our beloved state.

    • Taylor

      Yeah Frich showed what outstanding caliber of Republican candidates you have when she was on The Daily Show.

      Keep dreaming. You must be drinking the same stuff the toxic avenger did.

  • Marty

    You know why the Republican Party will not win? BENGHAZI!!!!!!

    They are nuts.

    • Rob

      " this point, what does it matter?"

  • Chris

    We may have crazy now, but that doesn't mean I'm going to replace crazy with psychotic.

  • Todd

    I really wish people would get off the two party system - it's a joke. I just want people in office that have the voters interest in mind, not their own.

  • Stephanie

    I would not vote for that anti-woman party for anything! I'm voting for those that care about women's issues and keeping my husband safe on the job.

    I'm voting for Democrats.

    • r thomas

      Well if your the wife of a miner chances are he won't have a job so he'll be very safe on food stamps and welfare.

    • Richard

      Then you really should vote republican the only thing this state has been first in is the race to the bottom only a idiot would continue to keep the party of disaster it is time for a much needed change so vote GOP.

  • Jacob

    Republican extremism is not what this state needs. I will not vote for a group that thinks pro-life and gun bills are the only thing that will move this state into the future.

    That is insanity.

    • r thomas

      So if your so anti-life why don't you climb to the top pinnacles of Seneca Rocks and take a leapt.

      Oh! I get it.Your pro-life only when you are talking about your life.

      Its easy to throw someone else's life away.Especially the unborn.

      You know why we called them Gokes.Its easy to kill something you have dehumanized.

      Thats why you abortion radicals call them fetuses.

    • Mitch

      @ Jacob,

      You mean as opposed to 80 years of Democratic extremism? That's laughable. It's clear that whatever the Dems have been doing for over 80 years has not "moved this state into the future", nor even so much as budged it.
      How do you know that something that hasn't been tried in this state for over 80 years (a Republican majority) won't work?
      I personally would prefer a more nuetral combination of the 2, but 80+ more years of mindlessly voting knee-jerk Democrat is a sure-fire PROVEN recipe for disaster.

      • Jacob

        Republicans are not new. They want old. They tell us constantly their ideas "lower taxes, less regulations, court reform"

        What is new about that? they lowered taxes here and made the regulations so low that we have more dead miners and polluted water that is so bad some can't even take showers.

        Why would West Virginia want MORE of that thinking? That is crazy.

        • P B and J

          @ Jacob,

          Blaming the Republicans for the most recent mining fatality?

          Exhibit "A" as to why WV is still one of the most ignorant states in the Union.

          • Jacob

            Apparently you haven't been around long enough to realize, there have been pink slips happening for years.

            Safety matters and those deaths haven't been in UMWA mines. Safety should always outweigh profits and SOMEONE needs to look out for miner's health.

          • P B and J

            @ Jacob

            Ignorant is having the UMWA support a president that is anti coal which led to my fathers pink slip after 20+ years of union participation and voting democrat.

            You can keep voting like your daddy did, cause I never will.

          • Jacob

            Ignorant is having non-union coal mines. That was another fatality at another non-union mine.

            How many republicans do you know that are for unions?

      • P B and J

        As I gently stand to start a "slow applause".

  • 2XLPatriot

    Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result each time. Consistently voting democrat for nearly 100 years and expecting different results....See the definition of insanity.

  • Gary Karstens

    WV needs Democrats to control the government from federal, local and state levels. It is that vital to WV. Democrats are more progressive in their leanings. Republicans rely on scare tactics. Let's be realistic voters and give WV what is best.....Democrat control leads to better government. They know how to deal with the problems better.

    • Pickle Barrel

      Republicans rely on scare tactics? Sorry, but its the Dems who constantly say that Grandma's going over the cliff, that minorities will have their civil rights revoked, that seniors will lose their Social Security, that the poor will be thrown into the street, etc. Fact is, the Dems want people to be dependent on them…insures a block of votes for the ruling taskmasters.

      Yes, let's continue more of that Democrat/Socialist control to deal with the problems THEY created. After all, WV has done so well under their "leadership"…fleeing population, poor education, no jobs and no hope.

      Or is it as Hillary Clinton said, "The problem with socialism is the wrong people have always been in charge." We've gone through 80+ years of it in WV and you Democrats still can't find the right people to be in charge.

      Time to try something else.

      • RedGal

        @ Pickle Barrel
        I wish there was a "LIKE" option for this comment.
        Scare tactics from Republicans? Seriously? Each time one disagrees with a Democrat, one is labeled a bully, intolerant, racist, etc. Please, stop drinking the Kool-Aid folks. We've been barreling down a slippery slope to disaster for over 80 years with this nonsense. WV is last in everything positive because we keep re-electing the same folks who continue to contribute to making us last. Why can't you see that?

    • Mitch

      @ Gary Karstens,

      The Democrats have had over 80 YEARS to prove that, and the facts do not in any way, shape or form support your assertions.
      Get out of your blind, ideology/homerism for a moment and re-acquaint yourself with the actual facts.

    • Mitch

      @ Gary Karstens,

      Good grief, did you type that with a straight face? "Dem. control leads to better gov't."? As opposed to what?
      Dem. control of W.Va. has led to a century of being DEAD LAST in every important statistical category in the nation....and you call THAT better gov't.?
      My god, where do get statements like this? Wake up and smell the coffee!

    • 2XLPatriot

      West Virginia has had democratic contril for 80+ years and look where we're ranked; Dead last in all things good and top in all things bad. Democrats killed coal while the unions backed them in every election. Better government would be less government. West Virginia has decades old problems that the democrats have yet to solve because they answer to the liberals and hold party lines. Only uneducated, uninformed fools would continue to back a democrat. Personally, I'm conservative and don't identify with either party. I think the 2 party system is wore out and ineffective but, I would never back a democrat.

      • The bookman

        Quite honestly, the right thing to do would be for democratic leadership, you know who you are, to publicly thank the Republicans for being willing to take the mess off their hands. It will be no easy task to unravel the decades of mismanagement in state government. I've said before the Republicans best be careful what they wish for, as they just might get it.

  • Buck

    Grant, please define a "regular" West Virginian. Would that be someone who votes a straight democratic ticket, re-electing the same old hacks that have kept WV in third world status for nearly 100 years?

    • Grant

      Anti-union, anti-minimum wage, anti-social security, anti-medicare, anti-women, anti-veterans, and the list could go on and on, especially if I start on the pros.

      • r thomas

        I spent 24 years in the military.Do not even suggest that democrats are for veterans or the military.I have voted Republican every time since the fiasco that was the carter years.

        Oh by the way when clinton was president many counties in wv had over 20% unemployment.Look it up.

      • Mitch

        @ Grant,

        Because the Dem. positions have been working so well for the state for the past 80 years, right?

      • Grant

        Sorry meant to specify opposite of "Regular" West Virginian.

  • Ron - from Morgantown

    Notice in the story that they don't actually give the number of Republican voters for house members in 2008 and 2012 - just the % increase . I imagine they did that because if they show those figures it wouldn't fit the narrative of the story . As far as Da Mayor is concerned Jones seemingly has an opinion on everything these days . He's frequently in error but never in doubt .

    • Hop'sHip

      Now that's a good line! Frequently in error but never in doubt. I think that would describe many of us besides Da Mayor.

  • Grant

    Bologna. Republicans are too radical for regular West Virginians.

    When they want less regulations that end up costing our miner's lives, no one will vote for them.

    • Hillbilly

      There are radical democrats too... a prime example is called Harry Reid, and there are more inside WV

    • Independent View

      You need to get a grip on reality! West Virginians are tired of the give-away, vote buying Left-Wingnuts that have been running this state for generations.
      Get out your crying towel when you see the election results.

      • Grant

        Left-wing nuts? The pro-life, anti-EPA nuts we have right now? The ONLY thing that has saved this state are the few forward thinking Democrats left. If we lose them, we are sunk.

        VOTE DEMOCRAT! The rightwing nutjobs have gone off the deep end.

        • r thomas

          All the democrats have done is turn West Virginia into a big outdoor Detroit.

          Detroit was the the richest city in America in the 1960's but after nearly fifty years of democrat leadership it is now bankrupt.

          Say thank you to the Democrats for all their progressive ideas.

        • Mitch

          @ Grant,

          Saved the state? Exactly when did they do that? Because of them, we have been DEAD LAST in everything nationally for the past 100 years, so yea let's just keep doing business as usual, because that's worked out SO WELL, right?
          Good grief, do you ever visit reality once in a while?

          • Grant

            Dead last in everything? Maybe that is because coal companies ruled everything in this state for so long. Last I checked the coal companies liked republicans better than democrats -- that is enough to tell me who do vote for and it isn't a republican.

            Radical extremism is a no in West Virginia.

      • Annie

        Totally agree with you, Independent View. I will even supply the towel!

    • Michael Folk

      Who has been regulating the State for 80+ years?

      • Grant

        The coal companies have been regulating the state and the unions have been doing everything in their power to fight for regulations.

        Republicans hate unions and regulations. They proudly tell you over and over. Just look at the commercials in the second district. It is what they campaign on!!

        • r thomas

          listen dude.I doubt If you have been anywhere near going inside a coal mine in your life and all you are doing is talking a bunch of B.S.

          When I was a miner in 1968 the guys I worked with always talked safety but they were always the first ones to light up a cigarette at the face and never protested if we were behind on rock dusting and if I said anything I was told to shut up not by the company but by the guys I worked beside.

          The miners themselves are often to blame for safety violations but are the first ones to blame the company if there is an accident.

          I worked at a small union mine near fort martin in monongalia county for six months before joining the service.

          My brother worked 26 years for consol and my father,grand-fathers,and most of my uncles and cousins were miners as well.