CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — West Virginia, a once Democratic-dominated state due to heavy union presence, lost one of its few remaining Democratic senators last week when Glenn Jeffries from the 8th Congressional District announced that he was leaving his political party and filing to join the Republican Party. And Jeffries isn’t the first to make a similar switch.
Jeffries always considered himself more bipartisan, he said in a statement on Dec. 1, but the West Virginia Democratic Party cited “discomfort with Democratic Party values” as his reason for leaving.
The current Governor Jim Justice switched from blue to red back in 2017 after being elected as a Democrat in 2016. Justice, a businessman from Greenbrier County, announced the switch at a rally for then recently elected President Donald Trump in Huntington, West Virginia on Aug. 3, 2017, praising Trump and his policies that would help West Virginia, The Associated Press reported. “This man is a good man. He’s got a backbone. He’s got real ideas,” Justice said about Trump during the rally.
Although Justice did not give an exact reason for the switch, some sources guess it was due to the lack of Democratic control in West Virginia and the U.S., with only 15 of the 50 U.S. senators at the time belonging to the party, and others think it was simply an act of loyalty to the President at the time as Justice has confirmed friendship with the Trump family.
Sen. Jason Barrett, a small business owner from Berkeley County who currently represents West Virginia’s 16th District as a Republican, changed political parties in Dec. 2020. Barrett served District 61 for two years in the West Virginia House of Delegates as a Democrat from 2012 to 2014. Barrett was re-elected in 2016, and in November 2022, he was elected to his current position as senator.
When he announced the switch, Barrett said that he believed that joining the Republican Party would help him be the “most effective legislator I can be,” and that his beliefs and role as a legislature would not change.
Bates, from Beckley, West Virginia, left office earlier this year after losing during the Republican Primary in May, but he represented West Virginia’s 30th District in the House of Delegates since 2015. Bates announced that he was leaving the Democratic Party in May 2021 to register as a Republican.
In a statement at the time of his move, Bates said that the values and beliefs of national Democratic leaders do not align with the priorities of West Virginians.
Daniel Hall, who served as senator for the 9th District from 2012 to 2016, changed parties in 2014 before resigning from his seat in January 2016. The change caused a major stir because it upset the balance of power in the West Virginia State Senate, giving the Republicans the majority.
Evan Jenkins, who was a judge on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals until February 2022, switched parties in 2014. He served in the West Virginia State Senate representing District 5 from 2003 to 2014 as a Democrat and was elected as the representative for West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District in 2014, as a Republican. Jenkins lost as a Republican Senate candidate in the primary in 2018.
Nationally, West Virginia’s Senators are split—Sen. Joe Manchin is a Democrat and Sen. Shelley More Capito is a Republican.