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New WVGOP Leader Elgine McArdle seeks stronger base

WHEELING — New West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Elgine McArdle believes voters need to decide whether they are a Republican or a Democrat before they can cast a ballot in primary elections.

Presently both the Republican and Democratic parties in West Virginia allow voters with no party affiliation to request a party ballot when there are partisan primary contests. The number of non-party, or Independent, voters has been growing over the past decade, though Republicans now outnumber Democrats in the state.

The most recent registration numbers show West Virgnia with 444,318 Republicans; 382,559 Democrats; and 264,117 with no party affiliation.

McArdle hints she may propose eliminating the non-party voters’ choice for a Republican ballot in future elections.

There are more conservative Republicans who believe the choice forces moderate Republicans to cater to Independent voters in the primary election. This results in perhaps a less conservative candidate winning — or maybe one that is weaker in the general election, according to McArdle.

The potential also exists for Democratic supporters to vote the Republican ballot for the purpose of electing a GOP nominee that is more beatable in the fall, she explained.

“There are definitely pros and cons to it, and it’s definitely a decision for the (State Republican Executive Committee) to make,” McArdle said. “There are very strong viewpoints on both sides of that aisle.

“I personally think that for the purposes of the primary, you need to pick a party. You can be an Independent and vote for whoever you want in the general election, but I think it’s important for the party to maintain its base. You keep your base by ensuring those who are truly conservative will change their registration. If it’s close, it forces people to make a decision.”

McArdle was nominated chairwoman of the WVGOP earlier this month, and is the third state chair to come from Wheeling – following Robin Capehart and, before him, current U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley.

She is just the second woman to lead the state party. Melody Potter was the first chairwoman selected, and she served from 2018 to March 2021.

McArdle is the first Asian-American to lead the WVGOP.

“I am certainly a different look — a completely different look,” she said.

She works as an attorney in Wheeling. Her new position requires her to travel to Charleston, and it is an unpaid volunteer job.

McArdle credits her high school alma mater – the former Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy in Wheeling – with inspiring her to be a leader.

While at the all-girls school, the female students also assumed some roles at The Linsly School, the neighboring all-boys school. McArdle was a cheerleader for Linsly, and was the school’s representative in the annual Queen of Queens pageant.

“I truly believe my roots in high school — at that all-girls school on the hill — provided such a strong foundation for leadership,” she said. “When you are among smart women who are not concerned about competing with one another, and who are concerned about excelling, it just created an atmosphere to create many leaders.”

There are 127 members of the West Virginia Republican Executive committee, according to McArdle. The group is comprised of elected officials, working people and grassroots organizers, she explained.

“They are all in the same bowl, and they all have different ideas,” McArdle continued.

She said as chairman her goal is to “create an atmosphere where constituents think their concerns are being heard and addressed.”

She also wants to make certain the Republican Party maintains its supermajority in both the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, as well as keep its strong grip on statewide elected offices.

McArdle is looking toward the 2024 elections, when most offices “from the courthouse to the White House” will be on the ballot.

She said the state Republican Party has “a strong bench” for top races as it seeks candidates for someone to run for governor, U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

“But we have to build our base and expand it,” she said. “This is an exciting time. People are wanting to get involved.”

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