In West Virginia’s House of Delegates, the Republican supermajority is gaining another member, as Delegate Jason Barrett has switched his party registration from Democrat to Republican.
Barrett, a resident of Martinsburg, West Virginia, has served in the House of Delegates as a Democrat since 2012. He officially switched parties on December 11, 2020.
“I have always been a moderate in the Democratic Party and I fully expect to be a moderate in the Republican Party,” Barrett said during a telephone interview.
According to Barrett, his decision to switch parties was due to his belief that he can be more influential in his goals to improve opportunities for citizens of West Virginia while working with the Republican majority.
“I want to focus on policy, and doing things that attract people to West Virginia and policies that attract business to West Virginia,” Barrett said.
In the November election, Republicans picked up 18 seats in the House of Delegates, putting their majority at 76 of of 100 seats. With the addition of Barrett, they now hold a 77 seat majority.
Barrett was first elected when Democrats held the majority in 2012. but lost his reelection in 2014. He then ran again and won in both 2016 and 2018, and won again as a Democrat last month.
“I hope when they went to vote they went to vote for Jason Barrett, not to vote for a Democrat or against a Republican,” he said.
“I’m not doing this because this will help me get re-elected. It has everything to do with being able to accomplish good things for the people of West Virginia. This isn’t about getting the job. This is about doing the job,” Barrett continued.
The new Republican Delegate says that he is frustrated that the Democrats have reportedly been more focused on discussing how to grow their numbers in the Legislature, rather than on policies and ways to help the people.
According to reporting by a local news outlet, “Many of those conversations occurred during Democratic caucus discussions of a new minority leader. Barrett supported his ally on the Finance Committee, Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh. Most of the caucus instead selected Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, who has a focus on messaging.”
“I heard far too much about politics and optics and too little about policy and the ways we can improve the lives of West Virginia. I don’t drive four and a half hours to play politics and optics. I take this job extremely seriously,” Barrett said.
Barrett first registered as a Democrat in 2000 at 18 years old, as a new voter, but believes that things have changed since then. “I always believed in things important to Democrats. From 2000 to now the political climate has changed,” he said.
His wife, Summer Ratcliff, has always been involved in GOP politics in West Virginia. Recently, she was working for Republican Governor Jim Justice, until earlier this month when she took a job at the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association.
“Summer loves me for who I am and not what political party I’m in. This decision is mine. Obviously with any big decision in life, I talk to my wife about it,” Barrett said.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) December 11, 2020
His colleagues in the House of Delegates are excited to welcome him to the Republican caucus.
“Jason and I have always enjoyed a good working relationship, despite our different political affiliations, and I know we’ll be able to accomplish even more together now,” House Speaker Roger Hanshaw stated.
“As a small business owner, Jason knows how to meet a payroll and expand a business in this state, and that perspective will be invaluable as we continue to work to advance legislation that will make West Virginia the most attractive place for job creators, entrepreneurs and innovators,” Hanshaw continued.
“Jason has always demonstrated that his first priority is the people of his district and how he can best serve them. Because of that, we’ve been able to work together over the years on our common goals of making the Eastern Panhandle – and all of West Virginia – the best place to live, work and raise a family,” House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Householder said.
“Now that he’s formally joining our caucus, we’ll be able to work even more closely together to accomplish those goals and do great things for the people of our region,” Householder continued.
Barrett is even receiving support from the West Virginia Senate.
“I consider Delegate Jason Barrett a friend and a legislator who has demonstrated repeatedly his ability to work across party lines for the good of his district and the state of West Virginia,” Republican Senator Craig Blair stated.
“Jason’s change of party affiliation is a demonstration of a man who’s more interested in the merit of a given issue rather than party affiliation. As a Republican, his honesty, intelligence and willingness to work hard for the people will only improve both his and the Republican Party’s effectiveness while advancing West Virginia into prosperity,” Blair added.