Trump’s Legacy Evident in Northern Panhandle
WHEELING — The large presence and political effect of Republican president Donald Trump has changed the political landscape in West Virginia, with results now trickling to the county level.
Republicans won all statewide offices on Tuesday’s ballot, with the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates becoming GOP supermajorities. More than two-thirds of members in both chambers will be Republican when the Legislature convenes next year.
There now are nearly as many registered Republicans as Democrats in West Virginia. It is a situation most political pundits wouldn’t have imagined even a decade ago.
Elgine McArdle, chairwoman of the Ohio County Republican Party, has been a strong candidate for the GOP at the top of the ballot.
“His policies have certainly led down the ticket,” she said. “His anti-socialism, pro-capitalism sentiment has resonated with the electorate.”
McArdle said while results “didn’t completely go the way” of Republicans in this election, a large number of people did turn out to vote. She credited this to Trump’s campaign of energizing the electorate.
“I think we do have a very educated voting county. I was pleased with the turnout,” she said. “Turnout certainly helps a great deal. It’s exciting.”
Those participating in Trump rallies or riding in a “Trump train: found the events “fun,” according to McArdle.
“It’s contagious. There is energizing activity, feeling and support is very contagious. It is always good to be part of something that is fun, happy, exciting and non-controversial.
“At rallies, there is a large number of people. Nobody is grumpy. Nobody is jumping lines. It is just a fun, contagious feeling. Nobody wants to be part of gloom and doom and negativity. There has been a feeling of positivity that has been infectious. … It gives you a good feeling that not all in the world is bad.”
Marshall County GOP Chairman Brian Long said he has been surprised by Republican gains over the last decade.
“In my wildest dream, in my lifetime I didn’t think we would see that,” he said. “To see a governor (Jim Justice) first elected as a Democrat switch parties, then get re-elected in a red tidal wave blows my mind.”
Long said many lifelong Democrats called him this election cycle to request Trump signs.
“You would never have seen that 20 to 30 years ago,” he said.
Long said he remembers going to the polls 20 years ago and assuming all Republicans on the ballot would lose. That began to first change with the 2000 election, President George W. Bush, and the Democratic Party moving away from policies important to West Virginians, according to Long.
West Virginia has been “moving red for 20 years,” with Republicans taking control of both the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegate in 2014 — two years before Trump was elected president, Long said.
“I think people like what the (state) Legislature is doing and the direction it is going,” Long said. “They are proud to know those guys and girls.
Former Senate President Bill Cole “had a bearing on that. I only see it getting redder with redistricting and the supermajorities in the Legislature. I see West Virginians continuing to reject Democratic policies.”
Long admitted even he didn’t think Republican Riley Moore would have much chance in defeating longtime West Virginia Treasurer John Perdue in Tuesday’s election, but Moore won by 90,000 votes.
“His grandfather (former governor and Glen Dale native Arch Moore) would be so proud of him carrying on the family tradition,” Long said.