Within one election cycle, Mountain State voters have turned the West Virginia Legislature from a Republican majority branch of government to a supermajority branch.
With the unofficial results of the 2020 general election, Republicans in the House of Delegates and the Senate have at least a two-thirds majority, which gives lawmakers in that party the ability to procedurally advance or stop any bill or other measure without any support from Democrats.
Leading into Tuesday, Republicans held a majority in the Senate by a margin of 20-14. As of Tuesday, three state Senate seats unofficially flipped from Democrat to Republican, giving Senate Republicans a 23-11 majority.
It takes 23 senators to reach a two-thirds vote in the Senate.
Senate Two of the flipped seats, District 7 and District 17, were seats previously occupied by Democrats who decided not to seek reelection this year, Paul Hardesty of Logan County and Corey Palumbo of Kanawha County.
The third flipped seat came with the defeat of incumbent Democrat Sen. Doug Facemire, of Braxton County, in District 12, which includes Clay, Braxton, Lewis and Harrison counties.
Facemire had served in the Senate since 2009. West Virginia Delegate Patrick Martin, R-Lewis, was beating Facemire by a margin of 6,367 votes, according to unofficial results posted Wednesday on the secretary of state’s website.
In District 17, Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, was leading Democrat Delegate Andrew Robinson, also of Kanawha County, by 3,220 votes Wednesday, turning the Southern Kanawha County district from a Democrat seat held by Palumbo for 18 years to a Republican seat.
Nelson on Thursday said Palumbo left big shoes to fill in representing District 17.
Nelson said he talked with Palumbo since Tuesday, and he was ready to pull from Palumbo's talents in the Senate and focus on bringing people back to West Virginia and making a better environment to work and live.
“My goals are the same goals I've had every year that I've been in,” Nelson said Thursday. “They wont change – making West Virginia a place people want to come back to, where people want to come to grow business.”
In District 7, Republican Rupie Phillips, who served one term in the House of Delegates, was leading Democrat Delegate Ralph Rodigherio, of Logan County, who served three terms in the House, by 4,519 votes.
In other noteworthy Senate races, voters in District 11 elected Republican Bob Karnes to the Legislature over Democrat Denise Campbell, who previously had served in the House of Delegates for six years. Karnes served one term in the Senate from 2015 to 2019, but he was defeated in the 2018 Republican primary race by Sen. Bill Hamilton.
House Minority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, beat out Republican Rebecca Polis to replace longtime senator and Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, who didn’t seek reelection this cycle.
Republican incumbent Sen. Mike Maroney also led Democrat challenger Josh Gary by 5,492 votes Wednesday in the District 2 Senate race to represent Wetzel, Tyler, Doddridge, Ritchie and Calhoun counties along with parts of Marshall, Monongalia, Marion and Gilmer counties. Maroney has been embroiled in a criminal prostitution case since 2019 in Marshall County, and restated his innocence in a letter to Wheeling media and during a radio interview in the month prior to Election Day.
House of DelegatesRepublicans likely will hold 76 of the 100 seats in the House if current election results hold. That’s an 18-seat pickup for House Republicans, the largest net gain for Republicans since the GOP gained control of the House of Delegates in 2014.
Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, vacated a 1st District seat to run for the Senate. Republican Mark Zatezalo handily defeated both Democrats in the district to join Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, in the House.
Republican Charlie Reynolds picked up the House seat being vacated by Delegate Joe Canestraro, D-Marshall, in the 4th District.
Republican Derrick Evans picked up one of the two seats being vacated by Democrats in the 19th District, but Democrat Ric Griffith held off Republican Jason Stephens for the district’s second seat.
Republican Josh Holstein flipped the 23rd District, besting Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone. And Republicans flipped both seats in the 24th District, with Jordan Bridges and Margitta Mazzocchi finishing ahead of Delegate Tim Tomblin, D-Logan and Susan Shelton Perry.
Delegate Margaret Anne Staggers, D-Fayette, lost her reelection bid, finishing just behind Republican Austin Hayes in the 32nd District. Republicans now hold all three seats in this district.
Republican Chris Pritt finished ahead of Delegate Amanda Estep-Burton, D-Kanawha, in the 36th District, which gave one of the district’s three seats to the GOP.
Another multi-member district flip for Republicans came in the 42nd District, which includes almost all of Greenbrier County and slivers of Summers and Monroe counties. Republicans Barry Bruce and Todd Longanacre defeated both Democrat incumbents, Delegates Jeff Campbell and Cindy Lavender-Bowe.
In the 43rd District, first-term Delegate Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, won reelection Tuesday. However longtime Delegate Bill Hartman, D-Randolph, did not. Republican William (Ty) Nestor finished as the top vote-getter in this two-member district.
House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, chose to not seek reelection, and now Republicans make up the entire 48th District. Newcomers Laura Kimble and Clay Riley, joined by Harrison Delegates Ben Queen and Danny Hamrick, cruised past the four Democratic Party candidates in the district.
Democrats controlled the three-member 50th District going into Election Day but, on Tuesday, Republicans Guy Ward and Phil Mallow finished as the top two vote-getters, and Democrat Joey Garcia finished third to win a seat.
Delegate Michael Angelucci, D-Marion, lost his reelection bid in the 50th District. Caputo left the House to run for the Senate and Delegate Linda Longstreth, D-Marion, did not run for reelection.
In the five-member 51st District, which is most of Monongalia County, Republicans took one of five seats held by Democrats. Former Republican Delegate Joe Statler finished third Tuesday, which knocked out incumbent Delegate Rodney Pyles.
Republican Bryan Ward cruised to victory in the 55th District — a seat being vacated by Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendelton, who lost in the attorney general race in the June primary. Republican Don Forsht won easily in the 60th District race — a seat being vacated by Delegate S. Marshall Wilson, I-Berkeley.
Unofficial results show Republican Wayne Clark (4,511 votes) barely beat Delegate Sammi Brown, D-Jefferson, (4,342 votes) in the 65th District.
Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, is the chairman of the West Virginia Republican Legislative Committee. He said by phone Wednesday that Republicans felt confident they were in for a good night, but did not anticipate an avalanche.
“I don’t think any [race results] alone surprised me, but I would be lying if I said that I saw all of them going our way,” Capito said. “We were really battling in a lot of these tough districts.”
Capito said it was an across-the-board effort by Republicans this election cycle that pushed the number of seat flips that high.
“We had a goal to get a supermajority and get as many seats as we could, and, my goodness, did we ever do that last night. Hard work paid off,” he said. “Sam Ollis, our [committee’s] executive director, worked tirelessly.”
The new supermajority enables Republicans to deliver on the platform the party promised voters, Capito said, like growing jobs, building statewide water and sewage infrastructure and laying broadband in West Virginia.
“We had such an incredible group of candidates that was able to articulate that message and deliver it in a clear way, and I think that’s why you saw the results you saw last night,” Capito said Wednesday.