WHEELING - Ryan Ferns announced Thursday that he is resigning his seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Ferns, a Democrat, pleaded guilty this week to a charge of driving under the influence. Wheeling police had stopped his vehicle in the Edgwood area of National Road about 3:15 a.m. on April 20. His blood-alcohol content at the time registered 0.229 percent - nearly three times the legal limit for driving of 0.08 percent - according to police.
Ferns, 29, has represented the 3rd District and was seeking re-election in 2012.
"It is with great regret that I wish to inform the public that I have decided against seeking re-election, and will resign immediately from my seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates," Ferns said in a press release. "It has been a great honor and privilege to serve the people of Ohio County, and I apologize for any negative attention I have brought to this position.
"I am thankful for the opportunity to have served Ohio County and the state of West Virginia," he added. "Thank you, and God bless."
Rocky Fitzsimmons, co-chairman of the Ohio County Democrat Party, said he expects the procedure of filling the 3rd District seat to be similar to the one recently used to fill a vacant seat in the 2nd District - where former Delegate Tim Ennis, D-Brooke, resigned to take office as a county commissioner.
A 2nd Delegate District Executive Committee, consisting of four Democrat members, convened to consider candidates applying for the post and submitted the names of three candidates to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for appointment. Tomblin chose Delegate Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, for the post.
Diserio also filed for election to the seat this year, and Fitzsimmons noted the delegate selected for the 3rd District seat likely will fill Ferns' spot on the ballot in the Nov. 6 general election.
Fitzsimmons admitted he was surprised to learn of Ferns' resignation Thursday night.
"When he was asked ... he indicated he had no intention to resign," Fitzsimmons said.
Ferns had worked closely with his Ohio County colleague, Republican Delegate Erikka Storch. Storch did not immediately return calls seeking comment Thursday.
Ferns' name still will appear on the May 8 Democrat primary ballot, where he and Wheeling lawyer Shawn Fluharty are running unopposed for nomination to two 3rd District delegate seats up for election.
Republicans in the race running unopposed are Storch and Wheeling resident Larry Tighe.