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Democrat Switches Parties to Challenge Rahall (Updated) #WV03

Updated 11:29 a.m. | West Virginia state Sen. Evan Jenkins will announce Wednesday morning that he changed his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican to challenge Rep. Nick J. Rahall II next year, according to national GOP operatives.

Republicans have indicated they want to target the 3rd District with a top candidate in 2014. But Jenkins might not be the only Republican in the race. The GOP’s 2012 nominee, former Del. Rick Snuffer, issued a statement on Jenkins’ move that indicated he might run again.

Snuffer indicated Jenkins’ candidacy would not preclude him from another bid.

“Our team is confident should we enter the race next year, we will be more than competitive,” he added.

House Republicans are stepping up their efforts to oust Rahall in 2014. Earlier this year, the NRCC made a small television buy against Rahall. It tried to recruit Republican state Sen. Bill Cole, who opted against a run in June.

Jenkins was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1994 and served three terms. In 2002, he won a state Senate seat and is now in his third term.

This race is rated Democrat Favored by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Update 11:29 a.m.

Jenkins made his official announcement Wednesday morning in Huntington, W.Va.

“West Virginia is under attack from Barack Obama and a Democratic Party that our parents and grandparents would not recognize,” Jenkins said in a news release. “I am proud to join the Republican Party in fighting Washington’s assault on our state, our freedoms, and our jobs.”

Republican party leaders rushed to welcome Jenkins to the party. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California each tweeted words of praise for Jenkins’ decision.

But national Democrats were quick to pounce on Jenkins. One source noted that Jenkins gave money to Rahall’s campaign in October 2010. Federal Election Commission records confirm his donation of $500.