Delegates join forces in WV Speaker's race - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Delegates pick sides in WV Speaker's race

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House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, hasn't yet resigned from his position, but delegates already are jockeying to take his place.

Thompson announced last week he would step down from his position, and resign as delegate, to take the helm of the Department of Veterans Assistance, a cabinet-level position. The man who currently heads the department, Keith Gwinn, is expected to retire mid-June. That's when Thompson will take over.

Since Thompson's announcement, several delegates within the Democratic Party have voiced their desires to become the next speaker of the House. But now, just a week later, two front runners have emerged and are boasting the support of others within their party.

Delegates Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, and Tim Miley, D-Harrison, have announced their official bids for the speaker position, and other Democrats who initially wanted the speakership for themselves have thrown their support behind the two men. 

Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, was rumored to be interested in the speaker position before the 2013 legislative session even began. He also said he was interested in the position following Thompson's announcement last week. But now, he's throwing his support behind White, who chairs the House Finance Committee.

"After speaking with numerous delegates around the state, we agreed for the betterment of the people of West Virginia to take the House in a new direction and put together a team that can work both sides of the aisle to establish an agenda, build compromises and move our state forward," Skaff said. "I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of this new leadership team with other well-respected colleagues that know and understand what we need to do to create jobs, embrace our natural resources and help our existing businesses grow while we create positive solutions to our state's issues."

Also supporting White are Delegates Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln; Kevin Craig, D-Cabell; Larry Williams, D-Preston; Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell; Denise Campbell, D-Randolph; Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson; and Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha.

Miley officially announced his interest in the speaker seat through a May 24 news release. According that release, Miley "believes his leadership skills, integrity and moderate approach to issues will promote unity among the Democratic members of the House of Delegates, as well as the body at large."

Miley is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The news release from his office notes he often allows younger, more inexperienced members of the committee to present and defend bills on the House floor.

"I have enormous respect for each and every member of the House of Delegates and am very troubled by the potential acrimony that may occur among the membership in selecting the successor to Speaker Rick Thompson," Miley said. "It is times like the present that the House of Delegates needs someone with the leadership skills to be able to bridge the gap between business and labor delegates, progressive and conservative delegates, delegates of all ages, and of course, Democratic and Republican delegates. I believe I am the person that is most needed at this crucial time."

Three leaders within the Democratic Party have come out in support of Miley. Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; Majority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion; and House Health Committee Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, all issued statements of support of Miley, and all three had previously considered running for the position themselves.

The West Virginia Republican Party has remained mum on its plan of attack for the race for speaker.

Once Thompson officially resigns, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will have 10 days to call a special session of the House of Delegates so they may vote on a new speaker, which could be any House member. The Wayne County Democratic Party will have to submit the names of three candidates to the governor, who will then choose Thompson's replacement as delegate.