EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSJenkins Party Switch Raises Issue Of Shift In WV Politics
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Reported: Aug. 1, 2013 11:02 AM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
With the announcement Wednesday by Sen. Evan Jenkins that he is switching to the GOP to run for Congressman Nick Joe Rahall’s seat, it raises the question about whether the move signals an even bigger shift in West Virginia politics.
Eyewitness News asked political observers on both sides of the aisle to weigh in on the topic.
“I think it’s a reflection first and foremost of a Republican movement in West Virginia,” Mark Blankenship said.
Blankenship, who owns Mark Blankenship Enterprises, a political polling firm, does a lot of work for Republican candidates. He said the political landscape in West Virginia is changing.
“In West Virginia, about 45 percent of all registered voters describe themselves as conservatives as opposed to liberal or moderate,” Blankenship said. “As they see the Democratic Party on the national level becoming more liberal, it make sense that they would find other parties that better match their voter registration.”
The biggest movement is among those changing to "no party affiliation," often referred to as Independent. About 18 percent of voters in West Virginia identify themselves as Independent.
George Carenbaurer, former state Democratic Party chairman, said there is “a shifting demographic in West Virginia. The population has moved from the southern coalfields to the north and east, so you have a different type of person registered to vote.”
Carenbauer said while there are changes in West Virginia, he doesn't agree with Democrats abandoning ship.
“I think it’s very short term,” Carenbauer said. “The same things happened a couple of years ago when Spike Maynard switched to run for the same seat, so I think it’s a very short term phenomenon.”
Carenbauer and Blankenship agree the Rahall-Jenkins race will attract a lot of national attention and money.
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