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Politicians make statehouse predictions for increase in Republican delegates

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Last week's election resulted in some big victories for state Republicans. Unofficial results from Election Day show the Republican Party in West Virginia picking up 11 seats in the 100-member House of Delegates for a total number of 46 Republicans to 54 Democrats. The GOP didn't pick up the 16 seats it wanted to become the majority for the first time since 1930, but at least five Democratic incumbents fell to GOP challengers. Republicans picked up four more seats from retiring Democrats.

As two political insiders explained on this week's episode of The State Journal's Decision Makers, more Republicans elected to the House of Delegates could mean changes in leadership.

"We, see some very basic principles that need to be changed that we've been fighting for for years," said Delegate Tim Armstead, D-Kanawha, and house minority leader. "We've actually had some conservative Democrats from time to time go with us, but we didn't have the numbers there to be able to do that.

"I think now with the 46 republicans, we believe there are some conservative Democrats who will join with us to really make some bold changes to our economy that we need to make and we've known we needed to make for years."

A rumor surfaced last week that Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, could be elected by his peers as Speaker of the House when lawmakers return for their regular legislative session in February.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, who is a Republican and once served in the House of Delegates, said Skaff could indeed be elected if he earns enough support from Republicans.

"If they would be flexible, they could form a formal or informal coalition, and they could do just about anything they wanted to," Jones said. "Now there has to be some discipline in that Republican caucus; I don't know how many people the leadership could take with them."

Jones said Skaff is a conservative Democrat and credited him with breaking up the once-powerful 30th House district, which allowed more Republicans to be elected.