WHEELING - Del. Ryan Ferns announced Friday he changed his mind and won't resign from the House following a drunk driving incident last month.
Ferns, D-Ohio, added he hasn't decided yet whether he also will withdraw his bid for re-election this year. He received 2,111 votes from Democratic voters running uncontested in this week's primary election.
"I have heard (he isn't resigning) through his constituents, but I haven't been officially informed by Ryan that that is his decision," said Rocky Fitzsimmons, chairman of the Ohio County Democratic Party. "My job is to promote the strongest candidates. Ryan must make a personal decision, and he is in the best place to decide. Our job is to promote candidates, and you don't get to pick the candidates."
Local Republicans have been among the most vocal in asking Ferns to stay on as delegate. Elgine McArdle, chairwoman of the Ohio County Republican Party, is Ferns' neighbor.
"Good for him," she said of his decision to stay in the House. "I think he should stay in. Obviously, no Republicans could vote for him, but 2,100 votes are indicative that Democrats want him to stay in office."
Ferns, 29, is serving his first term representing the 3rd Delegate District. On April 26, he first announced he would resign his delegate seat after pleading guilty to a DUI charge. Wheeling Police cited Ferns April 20 after a traffic stop where police said his blood-alcohol content level registered at 0.229 percent - nearly three times the legal limit for driving of 0.08 percent. But Friday, Ferns announced he would at least serve out the remainder of his term that ends at the start of 2013.
"I have come to this decision after much soul searching," he said. "It is based upon the outpouring of public support that I have received both in personal contact and encouragement from friends and supporters, as well as the support I received from the voters of the 3rd District in this past Tuesday's primary election.
"It is my belief that the citizens of the 3rd Delegate District will be best served by my completing the term to which I was elected."
Ferns also has not yet decided if he will have his name removed from the general election ballot, indicating he still could seek re-election. In his April 26 resignation letter, he said he would not seek re-election.
"While I know that I have made some personal mistakes in the past, I have been encouraged by many people to continue to seek re-election," he said Friday. "At the same time, I do not wish to have my personal mistakes be the focus of any election, I truly believe that any such contest should be one about the issues."
Ferns did note his re-election decision would be made in the coming days.
"The public's encouragement has led me to believe that I could seek re-election with a campaign that focuses on the issues our region and state face, as well as my past service as one of the delegates in the 3rd District," he said. "However, I will use the next few days to reflect and consult with family, friends and colleagues, and make the determination as to whether I and my family are willing to undergo the personal scrutiny that such a decision will undoubtedly bring about from my opponent and my opponent's supporters.
"I will make this announcement as soon as reasonably possible, so that all concerned may take appropriate actions based upon my decision. It is ultimately my goal to ensure that the voters of the 3rd Delegate District are allowed to decide who will best represent them in the West Virginia House of Delegates."
Along with Ferns, current candidates for the 3rd Delegate District in November's election are Democrat Shawn Fluharty and Republicans Erikka Storch and Larry Tighe. Storch currently holds the county's second delegate seat.