CHARLESTON - With Republicans making a significant gain in seats in the West Virginia Legislature, many legislators feel the Republican Party will play a bigger part in forming policy for the state in the coming years.
Republicans gained 11 Delegate seats in the House and three seats in the Senate. The party also saw wins with Allen Loughry for the state Supreme Court and Patrick Morrisey as attorney general.
"Our party and our elected officials are far more than just passengers on this ship," said state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas. "This is just the beginning. We have earned the trust of much of this state at the ballot box. Now the real work begins to help improve the lives of every citizen of West Virginia."
Delegate Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, was elected to the state Senate's 4th District. The Jackson County Republican said this was the threshold of a new frontier in West Virginia.
The gains made by the Republican Party are good for the entire state of West Virginia as it will operate on more of a two-party dynamic, Carmichael said.
"That is important in the operation of both the House and the Senate," he said. "It will have a significant impact on the legislative process. My hope is for a fundamental reshaping of business opportunities which will result in creating jobs, improving education and create new opportunities in West Virginia."
Republicans have the largest number of elected legislators since 1928.
The last time the Republicans had more than 40 members in the House was in 1972 with 43 seats. The Republicans will hold 46 seats during the next term of the Legislature.
Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, also said governance will be better with both parties being more equally represented in the Legislature.
"It is very healthy for democracy," the Wood County delegate said.
The increased numbers will mean the Republicans will have more consideration on issues brought to the floor.
"We won't get everything we want, but I think that both Democrats and Republicans need to work collaboratively in moving the state forward," Anderson said. "Republicans will be able to offer responsible alternatives."
The Republicans' position will have to be taken into consideration and cannot be pushed aside by the majority, he said.
Anderson expects it will be a tough budget year for the state with the governor already calling for a 7.5 percent reduction in spending due to decreased tax revenue due to losses in the coal severance tax. The current federal administration is not friendly toward coal production with some mines decreasing production and other slated for closure.
"That will hurt us budgetarily," Anderson said. "That will be the largest gorilla we will have to deal with.
"We will have to work at making sure we can maintain needed services without having to raise taxes."
Delegate Anna Border, R-Wood, believes the Republicans will have a greater impact on policy in the state.
"With the numbers we will have, it will be closer to a true two-party system as what was originally intended," she said. "I expect we will have some good debates and discussions."
The Democratic Party will still have the majority, but there are Democrats more in line with the Republicans on business development who may side with the Republicans on issues that might come up.
Border thinks the increase in Republicans in the House may have an impact on who will become Speaker of the House which she hopes will be someone who is open to creating opportunities for business development.
Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood, said he was happy with the new Republican numbers in the House.
"We will be able to work with some of the more conservative Democrats in the House to be able to get some things done," he said.
Azinger hopes the Legislature will be able to do something with education and tort reform during the next session. It is still important for people from both parties to work together, he said.
"We will be able to come together to get some good things done, I hope," Azinger said.
Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood, is excited by the possibilities the Republican gains represent.
"I think we will be allowed to have a bigger voice," he said.
The impact of the gains will be seen the most on the individual committees, especially Finance, Judiciary, Education and Government Organization.
The numbers are lining up to where there is almost even representation on committees where it can be a matter of a few votes to pass or fail a bill to move it on to the full House, Ellem said.
He expects there to be a lot more communication on individual bills between the two parties. Also, Ellem expects more people, both constituents and lobbyists, to be talking to more members of the House about issues that are important to them as opposed to the few in the past who had the power to move bills forward.
Many West Virginia Republicans were disappointed President Obama beat Mitt Romney, but are looking at it as a chance to energize the state and make needed improvements here, Carmichael said.
The state has regularly been at the bottom in national rankings, including education and health, which Carmichael attributes to having one party being dominant for many years. Carmichael believes the Republicans can bring in new ideas and improve the state's standing in areas.
"We are so pleased the voters have given us a greater role in governing the state," he said. "We will work for what is best for all citizens in West Virginia."