One of the more intriguing questions this election cycle in West Virginia is how the makeup of the state House of Delegates will change. Democrats have held the majority for over 80 years, but Republicans have been gaining ground.
Republicans picked up seven seats in 2010 and 11 more in 2012, narrowing the gap to 54-46. The GOP picked up another seat the following year when Ohio County Democratic Delegate Ryan Ferns switched to the Republican Party.
During this year’s campaign, the Republican Party is pushing to finally move into the majority, while the Democratic Party is desperately trying to hold on to the advantage.
Going into tomorrow’s election for the 100 seats in 67 districts, the Republicans have 43 incumbents on the ballots, while Democrats have 41. There are 16 open seats, ten of them currently held by Democrats and six by Republicans, who either didn’t run again or lost in the Primary Election.
Here are a few of the more interesting House races to keep an eye on tomorrow that may decide which party will be in charge in 2015:
–District 1 (Brooke, Hancock. Current make-up: Two Democrats) Democrats are worried they could lose a seat here, possibly to Republican Patrick McGeehan, who is trying to return to the House after failing in his bid to win a state Senate seat.
–District 2 (Brooke, Ohio. Current make-up: One Democrat). The Democrats believe incumbent Phillip Diserio is safe. However the GOP is high on Ryan Weld, especially since Diserio won the 2012 election by just 270 votes.
–District 12 (Jackson. Current make-up: One Republican) Republican incumbent Steve Westfall beat his Democratic opponent by just 300 votes in 2012. This year, Westfall’s challenge comes from Democrat Mike Bright. The former Jackson County Sheriff ran competitively for the Senate in 2012.
–District 16 (Cabell, Lincoln. Current make-up: Two Democrats, One Republican) Long-time Democratic House member Kevin Craig didn’t run again and the GOP hopes to pick up a seat.
–District 17 (Cabell, Wayne. Current make-up: Two Democrats). If Republicans hope to take the House, they’re going to have to pull off upsets someplace. Democrats see incumbents Dale Stephens and Doug Reynolds as safe, but the GOP thinks Matthew Rohrbach, a medical doctor, has a shot.
–District 23 (Boone. Current make-up: One Republican). Republican incumbent Josh Nelson is defending his seat in a heavily Democratic district. Nelson has taken some heat for missing the 2014 legislative session because of his military service and could be vulnerable to Democratic challenger Barry Brown.
–District 35 (Kanawha. Current make-up: Three Republicans, One Democrat) Democratic Party leaders believe they can pick up a seat here after Republican incumbent Suzette Raines decided late to pull out of the race.
–District 36 (Kanawha. Current make-up: Three Democrats). Democratic incumbent Mark Hunt lost in the Primary, but well-know former Democratic Senator Larry Rowe may fill that spot. The GOP is banking on Brad White to break up this Democratic stronghold.
–District 42 (Greenbrier, Monroe, Summers. Current make-up: Two Republicans). Democrats believe they can pick up a seat here with Coy Flowers, who through Oct. 26th had raised $160,000 and spent $86,000.
–District 47 (Barbour, Tucker. Current make-up: One Democrat) Long-time Democratic Delegate and Education Committee Chair Mary Poling is not running again. Republican Danny Wagner, a retired teacher and coach, is facing Tammy Stemple, the Philippi City Clerk. If there is a Republican wave this election, the GOP could pick up a seat in a district that went heavily for Romney in 2012.
–District 48 (Harrison. Current make-up: Three Democrats, One Republican). Republican Danny Hamrick snatched a seat in 2012 in House Speaker Tim Miley’s home district. The Democratic Party is pushing hard to get that seat back this year.
–District 49 (Taylor, Marion, Monongalia. Current make-up: One Democrat). Democratic incumbent Mike Manypenny won by just 400 votes in 2012 in a district where Republicans tend to run strong. The GOP believes challenger Amy Summers can win the seat.
–District 50 (Marion. Current make-up: Three Democrats). This is a historic Democratic stronghold with incumbents Mike Caputo, Tim Manchin and Linda Longstreth all seeking re-election. Republicans, however, have refused to give up here, pushing Phil Mallow and running ads against Manchin.
–District 61 (Berkeley. Current make-up: One Democrat) What would a House of Delegates election be without Democrat Jason Barrett and Republican Walter Duke running against each other? Duke beat Barrett by 600 votes in 2010, but then Barrett beat Duke by 300 votes in 2012. Enough said.
–District 65 (Jefferson. Current make-up: One Democrat). Democrat Tiffany Lawrence is fending off a challenge from Jill Upson, an African-American Republican. The national Republican political action committee—GOPAC—has put over $20,000 in the race for Upson, who lost to Lawrence two years ago by just 300 votes. But Lawrence had spent nearly $50,000 as of last week.
With just a six seat difference in the 100 member House, and the inevitability of several close races, we may wake up Wednesday morning and still not know which party has control.