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Ward Wyatt takes on WV politics

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Ward Wyatt tried to fight his destiny.

Wyatt, 26, said he was a junior at the University of Texas before he realized he couldn't fight his love of politics any longer.

"I definitely fought it," he said. "My family has been in politics since before I was born."

His father, a former Democrat, worked with Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson before serving in the Texas House of Representatives and a term in Congress. Wyatt's father ran as a Republican in 1982, but lost that election. His mother worked as chairwoman of the Victoria County GOP for 10 years and served on the redistricting committee where she worked closely with George W. Bush.

Wyatt wasn't interested in any of it.

"In college, to be honest, I wanted to escape it," Wyatt said. "I rebelled. I thought, ‘I can't like this. My parents are pushing me into it.' My first job at the Capitol in Texas was a Senate messenger. That's where I caught the bug."

Wyatt's journey in politics has taken him from the halls of the Texas state Capitol to the West Virginia Republican Party, where he now serves as executive director. Wyatt has been working with the Republican Party since mid-January and has attended the Republican Executive Committee meetings and the Republican National Committee's Winter Meetings on behalf of the state party.

Wyatt's face may be familiar to some in West Virginia. In May, he began work with Kent Leonhardt's campaign for agriculture commissioner. Leonhardt replaced Republican Mike Teets on the ballot after Teets dropped out of the race. Leonhardt's name didn't even make it to the primary ballot. Despite that, Leonhardt did pretty well in the general election, losing to long-time state Sen. Walt Helmick by 3 percent.

"It's a professional game to me," Wyatt said. "That's the way I look at it."

Wyatt compared politics to professional golf.

"As long as you're grinding it out, you'll eventually get that big win," he said.

Wyatt hopes to take that momentum and apply it to the rest of the West Virginia Republican Party. As a result of the general election, both the House of Delegates and Senate have seen increases in Republican membership. Voters also elected Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who defeated 20-year incumbent Darrell McGraw. Allen Loughry also was elected to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who represents the second congressional district, was re-elected and announced her intentions to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

All in all, the Republican Party is doing quite well across the state. Despite those gains, Wyatt said it's not quite enough.

"In 2014, we'd like to see a Republican elected to the U.S. Senate," he said. "We'd like to maintain a Republican in the second congressional district. We're five seats away from a majority in the House of Delegates. We added 11 seats, a 31 percent increase this past cycle. We increased the senate by 50 percent. That's impressive by any measure."

Wyatt said one of his biggest goals is to earn a majority in the House of Delegates in the 2104 election, in addition to what he called lofty fundraising goals.

Wyatt is working closely with other young Republicans, including Ray Harrell and Matt Dailer, to increase that Republican momentum into 2014 and beyond.

"We're driven," he said. "We're young, conservative and know how to get things done. We're excited for 2014."

Harrell is the president of Marshall University's Student Government Association. Dailer served as a victory director for Cabell County for the 2012 election. All his work is done closely with GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas, who, at 31, is the youngest state party chairman in the country.

But Wyatt isn't all politics. When he has downtime, Wyatt said he likes to experience some of the things that make the Mountain State unique. Traveling and campaigning allowed him to see more of the state and meet some friendly people, he said, and he's looking forward to getting out and enjoying some recreational activities.

"Bridge Day was awesome," he said. "That was exciting. I wanted to jump off that bridge with a parachute, but we were campaigning."

Wyatt also said he'd like to raft down the Gauley River, mountain bike on some of West Virginia's trails, play golf and see some of the state's Civil War sites.

Although Texas and West Virginia in some ways differ politically, the people are inherently the same, Wyatt said.

"I've found that West Virginians are a lot like Texans," he said. "They're very hospitable; they'll welcome you into their home. Don't' step on their toes and you're fine.

"So, that's how I feel about West Virginia and I'm looking forward to it. I love living here."