John Raby, Associated Press Published

W.Va. State Lawmaker Elliott Pritt Switches From Dem To GOP

A man wearing glasses and a suit and tie with a donkey pin and American flag pin on his lapel. He raises his right hand as he takes the oath of office.
Del. Elliott Pritt of Fayette County is shown during his swearing-in ceremony at the West Virginia Statehouse on Dec. 9, 2022. He was elected to the House of Delegates as a Democrat but announced he had switched to the Republican Party on April 17, 2023. A donkey pin, known as the symbol of the Democratic Party, can be seen on his lapel.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

The Republican supermajority in West Virginia’s House of Delegates became more lopsided Monday after Del. Elliott Pritt switched from the Democratic Party, the state’s GOP leader said.

Pritt, a teacher, is in his first term after defeating a Republican incumbent in the 2022 election.

“I want to welcome Delegate Elliott Pritt to the Republican Party,” West Virginia Republican Party chairwoman Elgine McArdle said in a statement. “Like so many West Virginians, Delegate Pritt has recognized that the Democratic Party of today is not the Democratic Party that our parents grew up with.”

The move gives the GOP 89 members in the House, while the Democrats’ ranks dwindled to 11. Pritt’s decision was already accounted for by late morning on the West Virginia Legislature’s official House roster.

Pritt had been the last Democrat in the House in the state’s southern coalfields.

The 34-member state Senate also has a GOP supermajority with 31 Republicans and three Democrats.

The move continues a Republican wave in the state that started a decade ago. After the 2014 election, the GOP took control of the state Senate and House from Democrats for the first time in more than eight decades.

Buoyed by criticism of former two-term President Barack Obama’s energy policies in coal-rich West Virginia, registered Democrats in 2014 fell below 50% for the first time since 1932. There are now about 456,000 registered Republicans, or 39.6% of all registered voters in West Virginia, according to the secretary of state’s office. That compares with about 372,000 registered Democrats, or 32.3%.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is the only Democrat to currently hold statewide office.