BECKLEY, WV (LOOTPRESS) — The supermajority just became more superior.
Raleigh County Delegate Mick Bates pushed the Republican membership in the state House of Delegates to 78 by switching parties at the Voter Registration Office in Beckley. Democrat numbers dropped to 22 with the change.
Bates was joined by four fellow delegates as he made the change official at the Raleigh County Courthouse.
Raleigh Republican Delegate Brandon Steele was one of those on hand. Steele serves as chair of the House Government Organization Committee. Steele praised Bates’ party switch and welcomed him to the GOP.
Steele said he felt that he, his fellow Republican legislators, and Bates “have long shared the common values of Southern West Virginia.”
Fellow legislators nodded in agreement when Steele said he “looks forward to Mick’s wisdom and leadership as we move forward.”
In a prepared statement, Bates said, “After much prayer and deliberation during and following the 2021 legislative session, I have made the decision to ensure I best represent the interests of the people of the 30th. District, Beckley, and Raleigh County and that I do so as a member of the majority party. This morning, I officially changed my voter registration status from Democrat to Republican and will join the Republican Caucus in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
“I am far from the first person to make such a change and will not be the last. Over the past three years, there has been a 30% swing in registrations in Raleigh County from Democrat to Republican. The line often used, and attributed to President Ronald Reagan, is that ‘I didn’t leave the party, the party left me.'”
In answer to a reporter’s question, Bates said, “there are times I agree with the Governor (Republican Jim Justice) and there are times when I don’t.” He acknowledged that he had not been a fan of the Governor’s invoking a state of emergency to govern by executive order since the outset of the Covid pandemic.
Asked how many constituents had contacted him to support the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the personal income tax, he responded, “none. But several have told me they’re not for it.”
In his statement, Bates added, “There used to be a difference between the way West Virginia Democrats and Washington Democrats were viewed. People no longer see that difference. At a national level, the controlling interests and leadership of the Democratic party continue to pursue positions that alienate and anger voters in rural parts of the country and don’t reflect the priorities, values or beliefs of the people in West Virginia. This is not changing and appears to be getting worse, not better.
“I have many friends that are registered Democrats and a number of Independent friends. I have an equal number of friends and supporters that are registered Republican. We are all West Virginians who need to work together to move this state forward and address its many problems.
He went on, “I expect that this decision may disappoint and upset some. I believe that a greater number will welcome it and see it as the right thing to do at the right time for the people I represent.
I have always done my best for people, regardless of party affiliation. That hasn’t and will not change. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for the remainder of my term to build a better, stronger and healthier Beckley, Raleigh County and Southern West Virginia. There is a lot more work to do.”
In Charleston, Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay) welcomed Bates to the Republican Caucus of the West Virginia Legislature.
“Mick has always been a pro-business Delegate, and we certainly welcome his credentials and his experience as a small business owner to the party,” Hanshaw said. “This is an unprecedented time for the House of Delegates, with the largest Republican majority the state has ever seen, and as we continue to do the work of making West Virginia the easy choice for people and businesses to call home, the Republican party will only continue to grow.”
Bates was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2014.
He is a physical therapist and the owner/CEO of BODYWORKS as well as the president of Praxis Corp. He is a member and former chairman of the Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, a former president and member of the Board of Directors of the West Virginia Physical Therapy Association and served on the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Committee. Bates and his wife, Pamela, are the parents of four teenagers.