By Mannix Porterfield
Republicans grabbed 46 of the 100 seats in the House of Delegates in November, the biggest shakeup in the chamber’s membership since the Roaring Twenties.
In Sunday’s GOP caucus, however, the earth didn’t shake. No political tremors at all.
By acclimation, the Republicans agreed to keep Delegate Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, at the helm for another two-year stint as minority leader.
Armstead acknowledged the new-found clout of the GOP but pledged to work with the Democratic leadership to achieve progress in West Virginia.
“We’ve already had discussions with Democratic members about working together,” he said, suggesting the GOP could forge coalitions with the other party to force votes on their preferred legislation.
“I think we will certainly reach across the aisle to try to get support for those issues that we believe are important. There are a lot of goals we think we have in common and a lot of ways we can address these things together.”
Armstead said the Republicans want to focus on a “fair tax structure,” a stronger infrastructure, and “a fair and predictable legal climate.”
“If we can make improvements in those areas, we will make West Virginia a strong place economically and improve the quality of life for our citizens,” he said. “That’s what we want to see happen.”
One slot to be filled is that of minority whip, since Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, won a seat in the state Senate in November balloting.
Armstead indicated he would fill that position and announce some additional changes in January.
“I’m very honored and pleased to have the opportunity to work with this tremendous group of Republican delegates,” the minority leader said. “I think we are ready right today to get to work to do the bold changes we need to move our state forward.”
Armstead interpreted the results of the general election as a signal that West Virginians want a two-party system.
“They believe, and we believe, that a two-party system best serves good public policy,” he said.
“We’re very excited. We’re going to work very hard. There are 60,000 people out of work in West Virginia. That’s our top goal — to make sure we do all we can to make West Virginia a place where people can work, support their families, keep more of their hard-earned money and really be able to send their kids to top-quality schools.”
Hinting at using the party’s new stature, he said, “We think we can get enough like-minded Democrats to work with us on those issues to see them passed by this House.”
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