Several West Virginia Republican Party leaders are addressing concerns about a possible higher-than-usual turnover rate in the House of Delegates in 2018. Republicans hold a commanding 64-36 advantage in the House, and the GOP will likely still have the majority after the 2018 election, but there will be some shakeup.
Officials and candidate recruiters estimated that from 10 to 15 current Republican House members will not run for re-election next year. The reasons vary. Several are running for different offices, including Congress, County Commission and State Senate. Others, I’m told, are just ready to move on from politics, especially after the last session.
Lawmakers worked through a controversial and aggravating special session that took the state right up to the July 1st deadline for the start of the new fiscal year. Some left Charleston tired and frustrated with the whole process. And the budget outlook for the next couple of years also looks grim.
However, state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas believes GOP Delegates who were considering not running may change their minds. “In June, a lot of folks who had been there for the extended session were frustrated, but now they’ve been back home and regained perspective,” Lucas said. “It’s not a concern for us at all.”
Lucas says he plans to personally contact every Republican House member soon to find out for certain their plans for the next election. After that, the party can begin recruiting to fill any vacancies.
Greg Thomas, a Republican consultant who has played a critical role in candidate recruitment in recent elections, acknowledges the possible high turnover, but he is confident Republicans can keep their advantage. “Nearly all of the seats that are being vacated are in Republican strongholds or heavily leaning GOP districts,” he said.
Kris Warner, Republican National Committeeman for West Virginia, says voting data collected by the national party will be made available to state candidates. “Our conservative candidates (will) have access to the same information in West Virginia that was available to the Trump campaign last cycle and continues to be updated daily so our candidates do not waste money on inaccurate voter information,” he said.
Just a few elections ago, the only thing missing from the Republican ballot in many parts of the state was the image of tumbleweed rolling over the empty pages. That has changed dramatically with the GOP now in control of the House and Senate, not to mention Governor Jim Justice has recently switched to the Republican Party.
The challenge now is to retain the majority, protect incumbents and recruit replacements where necessary. “We know the importance of having a full ballot,” Lucas said, “and we have every reason to believe we will have a full ballot next year.”
No doubt the GOP will, but depending on decisions made in the next couple of weeks, the party may have to mount a bigger recruiting effort than expected.