By Robert Gaudio

Weelunk Contributor

West Virginia State Senator Daniel Jackson Hall is no stranger to switching parties. Or of playing political sleight of hand.

In 2006, Hall ran as a Republican candidate for one of two open House of Delegates seats in District 27, but he was defeated in the primary election. Hall then ran in 2008 as a Democratic candidate in the District 22 House of Delegates race and won by placing second. He retained his seat in 2010 by placing second in the general election.

In 2012, Hall challenged incumbent Democratic Sen. Richard Browning in District 9, narrowly winning the primary with 51 percent of the vote.   Senator Hall went on to win the general election, defeating his Republican challenger with 53.7 percent of the vote. He has currently served a half-term as the Democratic Senator from District 9.

On Wednesday, November 5th, the day after the District 9 voters chose Republican Jeff Mullins over Democratic incumbent Sen. Mike Green, Hall did not return Sen. President Jeff Kessler’s telephone calls. Later that day, Sen. Hall announced that he would break the historic 17-17 tie between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate chamber by changing his party affiliation to the GOP. This highly-publicized, dramatic and ill-timed party switch was clearly calculated and ultimately gutless, speaking volumes about Hall – the opportunistic politician – as well as to the uncertainty and blurred lines of demarcation in West Virginia party politics.

Speculation abounds as to the reasons for Hall’s second party defection, but pundits are clear that the leadership of West Virginia’s GOP has been openly courting Hall and others to switch parties for quite some time. And party switching is perfectly legal, by the way, allowing a citizen – yes, even an elected official – to exercise the 1st Amendment right to freedom of political expression.

But when an office-holder switches parties in the middle of his term, those who voted for him, due in whole or in part to his party affiliation and the philosophy and mission of that political party, have every right to feel hoodwinked and cheated. Voter trust is far more important to maintaining the integrity of the elective process than being a member of the winning team or gaining a highly sought-after legislative committee appointment.

That nearly 50 percent of eligible voters in West Virginia are not registered to vote at all and that less than 32 percent of registered West Virginia voters chose to vote on November 4th certainly bode badly for the health and future of West Virginia and of our participatory democracy. And when elected officials like Daniel Jackson Hall add fuel to an already-burgeoning fire of citizen disenfranchisement and disgust for his own personal and political gain, he should be sanctioned, perhaps by banning him from all committee memberships for the remainder of his term.

Further, the people of District 9 should view his untimely party defection as a clear measure of Sen. Hall’s character and show him the door in 2016.

I say, shame on you, Sen. Hall!

7 Responses

  1. Rochambeau

    Thank you all for your comments. Let’s remember to keep things civil, by which I mean not dismissing dissenting opinions as ridiculous. I’d also rather not see generalizations about voters based on their TV and radio choices because I think we all know where this tactic leads.

  2. mr_breezeman

    Bravo Mr. Gaudio, an excellent article and an excellent reply to a ridiculous comment. Being that the majority of people who got out and voted in this last election were republicans over the age of 60 I would hardly call them well-informed. That demographic is the largest audience of Fox News and right wing talk radio. Neither of these outlets are exactly based in fact and thus they do not produce well-informed voters.

  3. Robert Gaudio

    With all due respect, I disagree with most of what is stated in the response by uvahoos:
    – Opportunity is measurably bridled regarding several sectors of American society, particularly as the middle classes continue to shrink and absorb evermore economic pressures;
    – As much as Americans are frustrated by our narrow-minded, two-party political system, there are significant differences between the Republicans and Democrats regarding how they approach governance. Admittedly, each party’s goal of retaining power has regularly trumped their pursuit of party philosophy, particularly in the Beltway. For example, it was the West Virginia Democratic Party’s unwillingness to run on its traditional tenets that played a significant part in their loss of the state legislature and all Congressional seats on November 4th;
    – There is nothing about Senator Hall’s recent action that is honest, with the possible exception that he honestly wants to sit on the winning side of the aisle;
    – Finally, stating that a participatory democracy can function in a normal and healthy fashion when a significant majority of eligible voters stay away from the polls and that this negative phenomenon is the best-case scenario for America to move forward is the antithesis of all that is true about a viable democratic system that strives to reflect the true will of the governed.

    • uvahoos

      It is amusing to see WV Democrat commentators ponder that if we only had run on our traditional tenets, things would have turned out better. Three generations of Democrat rule in West Virginia has left us with a bottom five state in every imaginable category from education to economic prosperity. How bad is it? An eighteen year old Republican won a House seat. I’m not voting for an eighteen year old unless she’s running for Senior Class President. The Democrats in West Virginia are the gift that keeps on giving– please run on your record in the next election. The last three generations of Democratic rule should not be viewed as a proud one. This criticism is not an endorsement of the Republicans, but they can’t be worse, can they?

      The true will of the governed? That’s like asking my toddlers what they want for dinner, cookies and ice cream, o.k. I will serve that right up.

      • Robert Gaudio

        Aside from me not being a “Democrat commentator”, I tend to agree with you about the West Virginia Democratic Party and the chaos it has become. I also agree that the legislative leadership in the Mountain State, mostly peopled by self-described Democrats over the past century, has failed to lift us up from the mire of finishing dead last in every important category.
        I was not insinuating, however, that Democrats would have prevailed in any race on November 4th had they run on a traditional party platform, only that running away from their own party lost them more than it gained. And I believe that GOP rule in the West Virginia legislature will be a breath of fresh air for the people, whether or not they accomplish much in the first term. So, we’re on the same page with most of that.
        But, understanding that the rabble (we) cannot all have a turn driving the bus and must concede the operation to the licensed drivers (elected officials), the will of the governed – educated or not, child-like or not – is the cornerstone of democracy and cannot be allowed to be usurped by big money or elitist tyranny. Such has been the downfall of many empires and shall be ours if it continues. My humble opinion, of course.

  4. jrg

    There is no bravo in changing parties like your underwear for the benefit of your own political aspirations and disenfranchising the voters that gave you the opportunity. Legal yes, moral not so much.

  5. uvahoos

    I say “Bravo” Senator Hall. America is the land of unbridled opportunity. Sen. Hall furthers proves the insignia ce of the big R or big D attached to the politician’s name. While the two parties talk a big game, they have shown me little difference in practice. Too many of our elected officials enjoy the power of their office more than the responsibility of office. At least Sen. Hall is honest about this. As for the lack of registered voters and lack of voter turnout, that is a blessing. Given the average education level of the eligible voters and the general lack of knowledge of the citizens, please don’t participate. I hope the non-voters will keep up their complaceny and lethargy. I will roll the dice and take my chances with an informed voter regardless of political leanings.

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