CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston, is the first legislator to come forward to talk about Republican National Committeeman Kris Warner's attempts to get Democratic legislators to flip parties for the 2014 election.
Williams, now in his 21st year in the House, said he had no idea what Warner wanted when he called to set up a meeting last October.
"He told me he really liked my history of serving the people of the county," Williams said of the meeting. "He liked the way I conducted business, and said the Republican Party would welcome me with open arms and provide me with all the funding I would need to campaign on."
Williams said he told him that, while he has always worked well with Republicans, and needs support from Republican voters in the 52nd Delegate District in general elections, his family has been staunchly Democrat, dating back to FDR and the Great Depression.
He said his parents instilled in him the idea that the Democratic Party is the party of working people.
"That's the reason I have a D beside my name," Williams said he told Warner.
Williams noted that he often votes with Republicans in the House on social issues.
However, he said that even if he were contemplating switching parties, he would consider it wrong to change in mid-term, since he looks at re-election as amounting to a two-year contract with the voters who last elected him in 2012.
(Williams admitted he was also concerned that he has several economic development projects for Preston County in the pipeline, and said he feared that if he switched parties, House leadership and the governor's office might well pull the plug on those projects.)
Williams said he was taken aback when Warner told him if he didn't switch, the Republicans would run a candidate against him.
In fact, the GOP does have a candidate opposing him: Melissa Lewis of Reedsville.
We don't know much about Lewis, except that she registered to vote in Preston County in December, having voted in five previous general elections in Morgantown. Her home address listed on her candidate filing, 507 Indian Rock Road, Reedsville, is a rental property, which the Vicki Jenkins and Associates Real Estate website listed as becoming available in December.
Calls to Lewis Friday went to voicemail.
There is a Missy Lewis for West Virginia House of Delegates website, but it makes numerous references to Morgantown, which is in the 51st Delegate District. Example: "Missy Lewis grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, therefore she can relate to her community."
(Of course, the website may have been set up by someone independently of Lewis.)