CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Logan County delegate is changing his political affiliation.
On Thursday, Delegate Rupert “Rupie” Phillips, Jr. officially switched from Democrat to independent. As a self-described conservative Democrat, he said he saw no other choice.
“The liberal Democrat Party has hijacked the conservative people of my district and they’re not representing the values that we have down home,” Phillips (I-Logan, 24) said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline” before filing for the change.
Of more liberal Democrats he said this: “They’re not for coal. They’re not for guns. They’re not for God.”
Phillips is a supporter of President Donald Trump.
“He’s been fighting for coal. He stands for our guns rights and everything. He stands for God,” he said. “In my district, I have a lot of life, longtime Democrats and they need a voice in Charleston to represent their choices and, I feel being independent, I can do that.”
According to Phillips, he’s not attended Democratic House caucuses for the past two years.
“I’m not going to go in there and play the games that they’ve played since we’ve been in the minority, just trying to stall progress and causing more chaos in the state,” Phillips said.
“I want to focus on the people, not the party politics.”
Phillips has represented House District 24, which is made up of parts of Boone County, Logan County and Wyoming County, since first being elected as a Democrat in 2010.
As of Thursday, Phillips was the only delegate registered independent within the state House of Delegates.
The change took the House numbers to 63 Republicans, 36 Democrats and Phillips.
West Virginia has four recognized political parties: Democratic, Libertarian, Mountain and Republican.
Belinda Biafore, chair of the state Democratic Party, issued the following statement on Phillips’ decision:
“Delegate Phillips said he didn’t want to ‘play politics’, yet this is nothing put political posturing for his own aspirations and media attention. He said so himself that his district is full of ‘lifelong Democrats’, a lot of them conservative Democrats that need a voice in Charleston, yet he chose to abandon them for media attention,” Biafore said.
“Demeaning the people of our Party and calling them ungodly was completely uncalled for and unnecessary. It is not his place nor anyone’s place to speak on behalf of anyone else’s religious beliefs.”
She continued, “His comments on the Party’s stance on coal and guns was also untrue and it shows by the volume of conservative Democrats that we represent. We have said time and time again that West Virginia Democrats are a big tent because we represent real people.”
West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas also issued a news release:
“Our thoughts are with Delegate Phillips as he today makes the choice thousands of West Virginians have made in the last decade. Liberal Democrats in Washington and Charleston have ruined the once dominant Party in West Virginia.
We welcome them all to join the Trump Team, and Make West Virginia Great Again,”