By ANDREA LANNOM
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BECKLEY, W.Va. — Citing frustration with the Democrat party and reactions to the presidential inauguration, Logan County Delegate Rupie Phillips announced Thursday he is switching his affiliation to become the state Legislature’s sole independent.
Phillips said in a release that he hoped his former party “would have gotten the message,” but upon seeing reaction to the presidential inauguration, he decided to officially file paperwork with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office to make the change.
“It is clear to me that the citizens of my district want a true independent voice in Charleston,” Philips said in the release. “I have been and will continue to be that voice. The people have also been more important than party affiliation to me, and I hope this action sends a message to everyone that the people of southern West Virginia want and deserve change.”
“It’s the liberal Democrats that are in control of the party that I was part of that have basically ramrodded their own agenda down conservative Democrats throats,” he said. “I’m ready to fight for people. It’s the people who are important, not the parties. The Democrats have lost that focus a long time ago. JFK is probably rolling over in his grave at the liberal Democrat party.”
Phillips also said he didn’t like the protests and riots following Donald Trump’s inauguration, adding that he loves everything Trump is doing and he believes Trump is putting coal miners back to work.
“I didn’t like the protesting, down to even trying to stall the parade in the presidential inauguration,” Phillips said. “You didn’t see conservatives busting windows out of limos when Obama won. I couldn’t stand the man but you didn’t see me out protesting. I protested at the ballot.”
The breakdown across party lines in the West Virginia House of Delegates is 36 Democrats, 63 Republicans and one independent.
Phillips first was elected to the House of Delegates in 2010 and won his bid for re-election in November. He works in the coal industry and is a U.S. Air Force veteran.
“I am an American first, a West Virginian second, and a proud resident of Logan County,” Phillips said in the release. “The ‘war on coal’ has hurt nearly everyone I know. By becoming an independent, I know that it will put me in a better position to make sure the concerns of my district are heard. No matter what my party affiliation is, I will always be pro-coal, pro-gun, pro-life and pro-jobs —unfortunately, not many in the Democratic party shares those views anymore.”
When asked why he chose being an independent over a Republican, he said he felt his voice would be better heard in his new party and joked his secondary reason was he liked to be a trendsetter.
“Down my way, there is a lot of conservative Democrats and I feel I would have a better voice as an independent than a Democrat or a Republican,” he said.
He also said he wanted to send a message to the Democratic party, saying he feels the party’s views do not represent “Southern West Virginia Democrats.”
“They do not represent God-fearing, Bible thumping, gun-toting Democrats,” he said.
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