William Ihlenfeld of Wheeling Will Run For West Virginia Senate

WHEELING — Former U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II has entered politics, and is now a Democrat candidate for the 1st District State Senate seat presently occupied by Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns.

Previously, Ferns, R-Ohio, had no opposition in the race. He was running unopposed on the Republican ticket, and no Democrats filed for the 1st District before the Jan. 27 deadline.

But a new posting on the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website on Tuesday listed Ihlenfeld as a Democratic candidate in the race for the May 8 primary election.

Ohio County Commissioner Orphy Klempa, co-chairman of the County Democrat Party, said members of the 1st Senate District Select Committee met Friday and appointed Ihlenfeld to the ballot. Klempa said he believed Ihlenfeld was the only candidate indicating interest.

Members to the select committee are elected, but only meet when they need to fill a vacancy in the 1st Senate District.

The committee is comprised of two members from each county encompassed by the 1st District — Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall counties.

Ohio County resident Walter “Fuzz” LaRue served as chairman of the committee, and submitted Ihlenfeld’s name to the Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday, according to Klempa.

Neither Ihlenfeld nor LaRue immediately returned calls seeking comment Tuesday night.

Klempa said after nobody filed as a Democrat in the race, the party had “a responsibility to see if there is someone with interest” in running, and Friday was the deadline for the committee to make the appointment for the primary election.

A later appointment would have left the Democrat spot in the race blank for the primary election, but put Ihlenfeld on the general election ballot in November.

“He is an excellent candidate, and he will make it a really interesting election,” Klempa said. “If you follow him, he is in the middle of all the hot-button issues the Legislature should be addressing. He is a bright young man with a lot of bright ideas.”

Ihlenfeld is presently in private practice with the Bailey-Glasser Law Firm in Wheeling, but served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia from 2010 until 2016.

In his role as U.S. Attorney, Ihlenfeld sought to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the state, and prosecute drug dealers.

He led investigations against pharmaceutical companies that filled suspicious orders for prescription pills, while also prosecuting cases involving health care fraud, financial fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, extortion and other crimes, according to his biography.

Ihlenfeld is a graduate of Ohio University, and the West Virginia University College of Law.