By JESS MANCINI
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — The chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party announced Wednesday morning he will step down in January and he’s running for the House of Representatives.
Chairman Conrad Lucas, 36, in May 2012 was the youngest person to be elected GOP chairman in West Virginia.
“Serving as chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime,” Lucas said. “We’ve made history together over these last few election cycles and I look forward to more success for conservatives across our state and nation.”
Lucas, an attorney from Huntington, said he will run for the House of Representatives, 3rd Congressional District.
“I will never back down from a challenge and I want to help President Trump drain the swamp to push through necessary, conservative reforms,”he said in a statement.
Under his tenure as chairman, while the party had been making gains in the Legislature and state offices, the Republicans took control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2014, the first time in 83 years. Lucas said his proudest moment as chairman was in 2016 when West Virginia voted for Trump by the highest margin of any state.
While a Democrat was elected governor of West Virginia in 2016, Gov. Jim Justice in August switched back to the Republican Party. Generally, the party executive committee supports the governor’s choice for chairman.
Messages left with Justice’s press office for a statement about Lucas leaving and if the governor had a replacement in mind were not immediately returned. A special election will be held for the remainder of the chairman’s term and for the position of national committeeman at the party’s winter meeting, Lucas said.
The party was not shy in criticizing Justice while he was a Democrat. It released numerous emails citing the millions of dollars in taxes Justice’s coal companies owed, among other chastisements.
That changed in August when Justice, who was a Republican in 2015 before he ran for governor, at a rally with President Trump on the stage, too, said he was switching parties to Republican.
“Jim Justice’s past differences with our party and our party’s platform came while he was a Democrat,” Lucas said at the time. “We look forward to a new beginning as the governor now embraces the Republican Party.”
Delegate Frank Deem, R-Wood, was pleased Lucas was leaving.
In August 2015, Deem asked Lucas to resign because of his support for Wood County GOP Chairman Rob Cornelius. Deem’s dissatisfaction came after Cornelius made remarks taken as inappropriate to Becky Deem, Deem’s wife, and Sarah Townsend at a press conference when Bob Newell announced he would resign as mayor of Parkersburg.
“I’m glad he’s (Lucas) stepping down,” Deem said on Wednesday. “I don’t think he was a good leader.”
However, Cornelius Wednesday said there “has never been a more successful time in history for the West Virginia Republican Party than the five-plus years Conrad Lucas has run this operation. Period.”
” He is going to be a stellar conservative congressman for southern West Virginia,” Cornelius said.
Lucas was in charge when the Republicans took all three seats in the House of Representatives, Shelley Moore Capito became a senator, Republicans won four statewide offices and “flipped the West Virginia Legislature to Republican for the first time in more than 80 years,” Cornelius said.
“He was an early adopter of Donald Trump and led our effort that gave the president his biggest state winning margin in America last year,” Cornelius said. “At every turn, he was there to ensure the party had the candidates, organization and funds to extend statewide the Republican platform folks in Wood County have voted into office for years. Conrad has decisively won every medal one can as a state party chairman.
“We look forward to extending our conservative successes with new leadership that will continue our run of winning with Conrad Lucas, Sen. Capito, Rep. McKinley, our state legislature and electing Donald Trump as president,” Cornelius said.
Lucas Wednesday cited his youth when he was elected chairman in 2012.
“When I was first elected, I know that many were curious how someone who, at the time, was so young could manage our state party,” he said. “To at least some small degree, I’d like to think our success as a party can showcase the strengths and abilities of people of all ages in West Virginia.”
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