GOPAC’s Races to Watch: West Virginia House of Delegates

What was once a long-time Democratic stronghold has now become one of the Republican Party’s newest opportunities for a GOP majority as the increasingly liberal, job-killing policies of West Virginia House Democrats threaten economic growth in the state. Three major failures by the state’s Democrats in recent years are particularly responsible for sparking West Virginia voters to send a strong message and give pro-jobs Republicans an opportunity come November:

  • Cap and trade – West Virginia House Democrats voted in 2009 for “cap and trade” legislation that will force the state’s coal industry to meet strict pollution controls and inhibit the industry’s ability to extract coal – all of which will have a negative impact on the state’s economy, send millions of jobs overseas and increase utility bills for consumers.
  • Obamacare – House Democrats voted to implement a major component of Obamacare that will lead to higher insurance premiums for consumers, rationed care for seniors and a complete government takeover of the healthcare system.
  • DMV Fees – Democrats voted to impose a $43 million tax increase in DMV fees, doubling fees for vehicle licenses and tripling fees for license renewals.

West Virginians are tired of Democrats voting against its citizens, against small business and in favor of big government.

Democratic candidates have dropped six points in a straight-ticket vote since the 2008 elections. In contrast, Republicans have gained six points in the past two cycles. This year they are running on a bold platform to create jobs in West Virginia – through tax reform, education reform, elections and ethics reform, a focus on infrastructure, and legal and regulatory reform.

While Democrats currently hold a 63-35 majority, the House GOP caucus is the largest it’s been in over 30 years, and Republicans need just 16 seats to win a majority in the 100-member House of Delegates this year. Since 2000, Republicans have won increasing numbers of counties in statewide elections as voters look for pro-jobs, common-sense policies that will help get West Virginia’s economy growing again.

The 37 House seats that tend to favor Republicans offer a real opportunity for victory this November, in addition to 14 swing seats that can become additional pick-ups for the GOP. Not only that, but West Virginia this year has added new single-member House districts in which Republicans tend to outperform their opponents.

The Top Races to Watch in the West Virginia House of Delegates center on two GOP challenger candidates looking to unseat their Democratic opponents, two open-seat pick-up opportunities in new single-member districts, as well as a GOP pick-up in a multi-member district. These five races are key to the sixteen seat gain needed by Republicans to win a majority this November and start getting West Virginia back on track:

Jim Butler (R) vs Jimmie Wood, Jr. (D)

  • District 14, Mason and Putnam Counties
  • Voter make-up: Lean Republican

GOPACRepublican Jim Butler is facing Democrat Jimmie Wood, Jr. in the race for an open seat in District 14, a new single-member district in West Virginia this year.

Presidential candidate John McCain won 57% of the vote here in 2008, and a win by Butler will count as a GOP pick-up in the quest for a new Republican majority in the House of Delegates.

A well-known Marine Corps veteran and small business owner for over 15 years, Jim Butler is “Pro-God, Pro-Life, Pro-America, Pro-Veteran, Pro-Gun.”

He is an AmVets Lifetime Member and a member of the American Legion. Butler has been endorsed by the Home Builders Association of West Virginia’s BUILD PAC, the West Virginians for Life PAC and the WV FARM PAC.

While House Democrats voted to support Obamacare – and thus higher cost and less choice for West Virginia’s residents – Jim Butler has been an ardent opponent of the federal health care law, arguing on behalf of West Virginians’ rights to make personal choices about their own health care.

Support Jim Butler.

Suzette Raines (R) vs Bobbie Hatfield (D)

  • District 35, Kanawha County
  • Voter make-up: Lean Republican

GOPACIn this multi-member House District, Republican Suzette Raines is running against Democrat Bobbie Hatfield to win one of the four delegate seats in District 35. GOP Delegate Eric Nelson (HD 35) won a seat here in 2010, proving that Republicans can win in this district. The four seats are currently held by Delegate Nelson and three Democrats.

Suzette Raines is a public relations executive with strong political experience. She served as a volunteer with the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004, and with Shelley Moore Capito’s reelection campaign in 2004.

After a strong showing in the May primary, Raines is running to “make an impact that will allow our people, specifically young adults, to seek and find meaningful employment, even start their own businesses” on a platform focused on creating a competitive economy, reforming education, and cutting wasteful spending. She is also dedicated to cutting back regulations, like the cap-and-trade legislation supported by House Democrats, so that West Virginia’s energy industry can thrive.

Support Suzette Raines.

Randy Smith (R) vs Delegate Stan Shaver (D)

  • District 53, Tucker County
  • Voter make-up: Republican

GOPACRepublican Randy Smith is a well-known coal miner in West Virginia’s 53rd House District in Tucker County. Smith ran unopposed in the May 8 primary election and is running to unseat Democratic State Delegate Stan Shaver this November in a district where Senator John McCain won 63% of the vote in 2008.

In Randy’s own words, “This campaign is about jobs. As a coal miner, I see firsthand the impact burdensome regulations have on this industry and others. The solution to this is simple: Our government must stop over-regulating and remove the uncertainty so that small business owners and large companies alike can do what they do best — create jobs.”

In addition to Smith’s experience in West Virginia’s important coal industry, he is also heavily involved in his community as a teacher and ministerial board member of Brookside Church of the Brethren, and as a former president and board member for Terra Alta Youth League, Youth League Coach for baseball and basketball, and Preston High School Baseball Coach.

Support Randy Smith.

Jill Upson (R) vs Delegate Tiffany Lawrence (D)

  • District 65, Jefferson County
  • Voter make-up: Swing/Lean Republican

GOPACThe GOP is looking for another pick-up in Jefferson County’s single-member District 65 as Republican Jill Upson runs to unseat Democratic incumbent Delegate Tiffany Lawrence. Sen. John McCain won 55% of the vote here in 2008.

A retail manager with more than a decade of private sector experience, Upson is running to revitalize the business climate in the state and help West Virginia create jobs. Upson is also a military wife and mother, and has earned the endorsement from the West Virginians for Life PAC.

She is guided by a platform based on the principles of “individual liberty, limited government, low taxes, adherence to the Constitution, fiscal responsibility, and love of family, community, country.”

Support Jill Upson.

Paul Espinosa (R) vs John Reese Maxey (D)

  • District 66, Jefferson County
  • Voter make-up: Lean Republican

GOPACRepublican Paul Espinosa, the former president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, is running for office in the newly-created 66th District seat in which he faces Democrat John Reese Maxey.

A seasoned businessman and advocate of small business, Espinosa is running to revive West Virginia business by reforming taxes, regulation and litigation. With three children in public schools, Paul is also focused on effective education reform, including investment in students and teachers, as well as shrinking the cost and size of government in the state.

He has been endorsed by the West Virginia Chiefs of Police Association, the West Virginia Family Foundation, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the West Virginia Business & Industry Council, West Virginia Health Care PAC, and more.

Support Paul Espinosa.