Doug Skaff filed Thursday as a Republican pre-candidate to run for Secretary of State. (Will Price | West Virginia Legislative Photography)
Skaff was one of only 11 Democrats in the 100-member House of Delegates when he stepped down as minority leader in August. At the time, he denied rumors that he planned to switch his party registration to Republican and run for a statewide office.
During an interview with West Virginia Watch when he resigned from the House last month, Skaff said he was considering both switching parties and running for statewide office.
He did not immediately respond to a text message seeking an interview Thursday.
Speaking on MetroNews’ Talkline Thursday, Skaff said that he wasn’t the first to switch parties and won’t be the last.
“Let’s be honest, the Republican Party took the last two registrations by storm, but it wasn’t because 100,000 Republicans just moved to West Virginia,” Skaff said. “These were hardcore West Virginians who were pro-life, pro-gun, pro-coal, pro-gas and they all switched parties. So like a lot of West Virginians, you know, my ideals never changed. I was always that way as well. I was registered a Democrat, and I’m proud to be on the Republican team and just can’t relate to the national party any more.”
In separate statements Thursday, representatives of both the state Republican and Democratic parties pointed at Skaff’s voting record, including voting against an abortion ban last year, against a bill allowing guns on college campuses and against legislation prohibiting middle- and high-school students playing on sports teams matching their gender identity.
West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Elgine McArdle said that Skaff was a “reliable vote for his caucus’ liberal agenda and a regular vote against many pieces of conservative Republican legislation that we now call law.”
“It is the responsibility of Republican primary voters to choose their nominees, and while the WVGOP trusts the primary process, the Party must also continue to be a resource to its voters as they research candidates and legislation.” McArdle concluded, “The West Virginia Republican Party recognizes the philosophical nuances that can exist within the Party and welcomes those who genuinely believe in our cause; however, Republican voters are sometimes tasked with differentiating between ‘philosophical nuances’ and ‘diametric ideological opposition.’ Now that Skaff is labeling himself as a ‘Republican,’ despite his storied liberal record in the House, the upcoming primary is one of those times.”
State Democratic Party Chair Mike Pushkin said that while he appreciates Skaff “putting his cards on the table,” he’s surprised he’d try to reinvent himself as a right-wing conservative in the process.
“I know Doug has long been intoxicated by the idea of winning a statewide office,” Pushkin said. “Still, his candidacy could leave Republican primary voters with a hangover when they find out about his actual voting record. Nevertheless, we wish him well in all his affairs.”
Skaff joins five other Republicans who have filed as pre-candidates for the position: Steve Harris, former senator Kenny Mann, Del. Chris Pritt, R-Kanawha, Wesley Self and Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood.
Skaff is the president of HD Media, a newspaper chain that includes the Charleston Gazette-Mail and Huntington Herald-Dispatch. He’s also vice president of his family’s business, Skaff Family Limited Company, and owner and managing partner of Building & Remodeling Warehouse in Nitro.
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