Republicans are way ahead in the game in West Virginia, and now they are running up the score.
Mick Bates, a House of Delegates member from Raleigh County, this week switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. Bates was one of the more outspoken Democrats in the House who never shied away from criticizing Republicans, but he now says he can better serve his district in the majority party.
And what a majority it is.
Republicans now hold 78 of the 100 House seats; that is an overwhelming supermajority. Republicans also have a supermajority in the Senate, occupying 21 of the 34 seats. Those are overwhelming numbers that reduce the Democrats to legislative bystanders.
Bates points out that his county has had a 30% swing in registration from Democrat to Republican over the past three years. Raleigh now has 18,668 Republicans and 15,272 Democrats (11,062 are independent/no party affiliation).
Raleigh is not the only county that has flipped from blue to red. One year ago, 21 of the state’s 55 counties were Republican. That number is up to 31 counties as of last month. Just five years ago, Republicans had majorities in only 14 counties.
In the previous 12 months, Greenbrier, Hancock, Hardy, Marshall, Mason, Mercer, Nicholas, Ohio and Pocahontas counties have joined Raleigh in flipping from Democrat to Republican. If the trend continues — and there is no evidence it will not — more counties will soon turn red.
Cabell County, the state’s fourth-largest county, was once a Democratic Party stronghold. There were 8,000 more Democrats than Republicans five years ago. However, now the Democrat registration advantage has dwindled to fewer than 1,000.
The same goes for Harrison County, the state’s seventh-largest county. In 2016, there were 8,500 more registered Democrats than Republicans. Now Republicans are within 1,100 registrations of overtaking the Democrats.
Pendleton County is within 50 Republican registrations of flipping, while Tucker County will turn red with just 25 more Republican voters.
Kanawha County, the state’s most-populous county, continues to be a Democratic Party stronghold, but the advantage is not nearly as great as it once was. Democrats outnumbered Republicans by nearly 27,000 voters five year ago, but that lead is now down to just under 7,000.
Statewide, Republican registration overtook the Democrats earlier this year for the first time since 1934. February’s figures from the Secretary of State’s Office showed 36.81% of voters were Republican and 36.46% were Democrats (22.6% had no party affiliation).
However, registration figures at the end of April showed 37.8% of voters were Republican and 35.64% were Democrat (22.35% had no party affiliation). So now, there are nearly 25,000 more Republican than Democrat voters.
West Virginia’s political hue is getting even more red, and there is no indication Democrats can stop the slide.
Democratic Party leaders are criticizing Delegate Bates as an opportunist, and some Republicans might question his conservative credentials, but no one can argue with his math.