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Candidate recruiting rumored to cross party lines

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CHARLESTON, WV -

The campaign season in West Virginia has seemed never-ending for some time.

Multiple special elections and several resignations for special appointments have created a lot of movement in the political arena in the past two years.

And now a rumor of a candidate swap is keeping the chairmen of both the West Virginia Democratic Party and the West Virginia Republican Party on their toes.

"It is our understanding that the Republican Party is currently either unable or unwilling to find viable candidates from within their own party who share their beliefs," West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio said in an email statement. "As such, they are now attempting to recruit candidates from the Democratic Party, trying to turn them into opportunists."

A news report July 12 claimed Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, might switch parties for the next election. Jenkins, 52, was elected to the House of Delegates in 1994, and in 2002 he was elected to the West Virginia Senate.

West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said he could neither confirm nor deny any discussions with potential candidates for office.

"The bottom line is that the values and beliefs of the Republican Party match those of the vast majority of West Virginians, and many are beginning to realize it," Lucas said. "Mr. Puccio would be shocked to know the number of Democrats who have privately expressed interest in joining our ranks."

Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, had his party loyalty questioned in June during the special election for House Speaker.

Ferns was the only Democrat who voted for House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, rather than Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison. After casting his vote, Ferns tweeted "West Virginia first. Party second."

However, Miley and Armstead followed tradition and cast their votes for each other.

Ferns said his vote was not intended to go against his party, but was meant to be a protest against the special interests that had been trying to influence the speaker vote.

The ruckus is coming a little early, since the filing period for the next election is not until Jan. 13, but both party chairmen remain busy recruiting candidates.

"As chairman, I remain focused on recruiting strong candidates from within the Democratic Party who will defend the interests of children and working families across West Virginia," Puccio said.