If Tuesday’s General Election in West Virginia was a political earthquake, then the developments the following day were a significant aftershock.
Wednesday morning, we were still coming to terms with the Republicans assuming a commanding 64-36 advantage in the House of Delegates and achieving parity in the Senate at 17 seats for each party.
That delicate balance in the Senate held for only a few hours. There was barely time to speculate about a power sharing agreement between Democrats and Republicans before the GOP got the upper hand. Wednesday afternoon, Senator Daniel Hall from Wyoming County changed his registration from Democrat to Republican, giving the GOP an 18-16 advantage.
Hall was the logical target. His history suggested political flexibility. He started his political career as a Republican, switched to Democrat and ran successfully for House of Delegates (two terms) and was elected in 2012 to the Senate.
“If I’m going to work for the people of my district, which is what I’m sent to Charleston to do, I’ve got to be part of leadership and part of the majority party to do that,” Hall said yesterday on Metronews Talkline.
Mercer County Republican Senator Bill Cole had been talking with Hall for months, trying to get him to flip. “I’ve encouraged Daniel for the last year or so that he might want to consider another party,” Cole told me yesterday.
Cole also helped recruit a strong field of GOP Senate candidates this election cycle. His efforts are going to be rewarded with the top leadership position in the Senate.
The current Senate Minority Leader, Mike Hall from Putnam County, would normally be in line for the Senate Presidency. However, he and Cole have apparently worked out a deal where Hall will be chair of the powerful finance committee, while Cole will take the Senate President’s gavel. Jackson County’s Mitch Carmichael has the inside track for Majority Leader.
The rapid turn of events has left Senate Democrats stunned. “I’m shell-shocked,” said one Democrat, who is about to lose his committee chairmanship. A sullen Democratic leadership staffer told me, “It’s over.”
It appears the last time Republicans controlled both the House and Senate was after the 1928 election. The Democrats regained control of the House in 1930 and the Senate in 1932, maintaining the majority for 82 years.
All this may take awhile to sink in. West Virginians who are unhappy with the direction of the state have complained for years—make that decades—about “one party rule.” West Virginia is now a two party state, and control of the State House, as well as the Congressional delegation has shifted to the GOP.
Now let’s see what they do with the power.