After serving almost seven years in the West Virginia House of Delegates as a Democrat, Delegate Mick Bates has changed his party affiliation to Republican.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, announced the move in a news release Wednesday afternoon welcoming Bates to the GOP.
Bates changed his party affiliation Wednesday morning at the Raleigh County Courthouse in Beckley and released a statement in the afternoon.
After “much prayer and deliberation” during and following the 2021 legislative session, Bates’ statement said, he decided to switch parties to best represent the interest of the people of his district.
“I am far from the first person to make such a change, and I will not be the last,” Bates said. “Over the past three years there has been a 30% increase in registration in Raleigh County from Democrat to Republican. The line often used, and attributed to President Ronald Reagan, is that ‘I didn’t leave the party, the party left me.’”
The state Republican Party sent out a tweet welcoming Bates.
Bates’ party switch adds one more delegate to the already historic ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the House: 78 to 22. That gives the GOP a supermajority, or more than two-thirds of the chamber, enough to override gubernatorial vetoes.
People no longer see the difference between state and national Democrats, Bates said.
“At a national level, the controlling interests and leadership of the Democratic party continue to pursue positions that alienate and anger voters in rural parts of the country and don’t reflect the priorities, values, or beliefs of the people in West Virginia,” Bates said. “This ... appears to be getting worse, not better.”
Hanshaw described Bates as a pro-business delegate. The speaker said he welcomed Bates’ credentials and experience as a small business owner.
“This is an unprecedented time for the House of Delegates, with the largest Republican majority the state has ever seen, and as we continue to do the work of making West Virginia the easy choice for people and businesses to call home, the Republican Party will only continue to grow,” Hanshaw said.
House Minority Leader Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, said Bates’ announcement didn’t come as a surprise to Democratic delegates.
Skaff is president of HD Media, parent company of the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Bates, who previously served as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told House Democrats of his intention to switch parties following his failed bid to become the House minority leader.
“Delegate Bates must have decided that now is the right time for him to turn his back on the constituents who elected him,” Skaff said. “He is more focused on the next election than the next generation of West Virginians.”
House Democrats’ focus will be on “rebuilding the Democratic Party and the Democratic brand in West Virginia,” Skaff said. “This will be easier with legislators who believe and support the values of the Democratic Party above their own political ambitions.”
Bates, 50, is a physical therapist and owner and chief executive officer of Bodyworks, which operates health, fitness and rehabilitation centers in Beckley and Pineville. He also is president of Praxis Corp.
Bates represents District 30, which encompasses part of central Raleigh County, including the city of Beckley.
Voters in Raleigh County first elected Bates to the House in 2014. He has been re-elected in every campaign since.