CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Republicans made a hard charge to power in the West Virginia legislature, taking control of the House of Delegates and pulling even in the state Senate.
The GOP hasn’t enjoyed a majority in the 100-seat House of Delegates since 1931 but made historic gains in Tuesday’s general election. Republicans closed the night with a 64-36 edge, picking up 17 seats after entering the election trailing 53-47.
“You’re going to see a major difference in the way things occur in Charleston,” said Tom Fast, who led the 32nd District race and became the first Fayette County Republican elected to the state House since 1928. He had company as Kayla Kessinger also was among the three delegates elected from that district.
“West Virginia is in trouble,” Fast said, “and a lot of people realize that.”
Democrats saw their 24-10 majority in the state Senate trimmed to a 17-17 deadlock. Among the most stunning upsets was the ouster of Truman Chafin who had served in the Senate since 1982. He was unseated by Mark Maynard in the 6th District that reaches McDowell, Mercer, Mingo and Wayne counties.
“I’m very grateful and I’m going to represent the district the best that I can,” said Maynard, who operates a used car lot and salvage yard and spends his free time working on an NHRA funny car team.
“I’m just a guy that represents the area on average. I don’t feel like I’m better than anybody else, but I think I can represent the folks here because I’m one of them.”
Voters in the 59th District made 18-year-old Sarah Blair the youngest delegate-elect in state history. A West Virginia University freshman and daughter of former lawmaker Craig Blair, she scored 3,131 votes to more than double Democrat challenger Layne Diehl.
Blair thanked supporters on her campaign’s Facebook page:
“When I made the decision to run for public office, I did so because I firmly believe that my generation’s voice, fresh perspective and innovative ideas can help solve some of our state’s most challenging issues. History has been made tonight in West Virginia, and while I am proud of all that we have accomplished together, it is the future of this state that is now my singular focus.”