CHARLESTON - A lawmaker from the Northern Panhandle is switching parties and running for the state Senate on a Republican ticket.
The Democrats in the Legislature are more interested in staying in power "than the well-being of West Virginia," Delegate Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said on Monday.
"For the three years I've been in the West Virginia Legislature, always voting for what I thought was best for my district and this state I love," he said. "Many times this meant breaking party lines and voting with Republicans. My attempts at independent thinking have been met with threats and retaliation by leadership within the Democratic Party."
Ferns also announced he will run for the state Senate in 2014.
The Democratic Party downplayed the announcement.
"The last election clearly showed that Ryan Ferns' heart was not in public service when he announced that he would not seek reelection. But several months later, he reversed his decision after a couple of his close friends spoke with him," state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio said. "This comes as no surprise to me because many Democrats in his district believe that he has been an ineffective delegate. They feel he would not be successful in getting through the Democratic primary this time. Therefore, it appears Ryan has taken this opportunity as a way out."
A high profile defection this year was Sen. Evan Jenkins of Huntington, who became a Republican and announced he will run for the U.S. House of Representatives 3rd District in West Virginia.
"Ryan is the sort of leader folks in either party should hold up as a community exemplar," Conrad Lucas, West Virginia Republican Party chairman, said. "West Virginia is poised for greatness but we need leaders who are willing to make tough choices. We are building a team of leaders not for one election, but for a future that can keep our children and grandchildren here."