Race for W.V. House Speaker looms with special session

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June 12, 2013

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: The race for the leadership of the West Virginia House of Delegates comes to a head on June 18, when Delegates will elect a new speaker. Current House of Delegates Speaker Richard Thompson (D) will step down to become the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Assistance. He was appointed to the position by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) after the current secretary, Keith Gwinn, announced he would retire to address health concerns.[1]

After the initial announcement, a long list of Delegates considered running for the Speaker's position. Potential candidates included State House Majority Leader Brent Boggs (D), Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Miley (D), Health and Human Resources Committee Chairman Don Perdue (D), Delegate Doug Skaff (D), and Finance Committee Chairman Harry Keith White (D). Republicans also touted the possibility that State House Minority Leader Tim Armstead (R) would attract the votes of five conservative Democrats and become a Republican State Speaker of the House, despite the Democratic majority in the chamber.[2]

As the election approached, many candidates opted not to run, but Miley and White remained in the race. Miley claims to have 37 Delegates pledged to vote for him out of the 54 in the Democratic caucus. State House Majority Whip Michael Caputo (D) has publicly anticipated Miley's election, saying he would be a good Speaker.[3] However, White emphasized that those votes may change as the election approaches.[4]

Delegate Skaff, who is supporting White, noted that outside organizations have sought to influence the election, which Skaff says is usually an "internal matter."[4] Both labor unions in West Virginia and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have made endorsements or statements about the race.[3][4]

Democratic legislators do not anticipate defections to Minority Leader Armstead (R).[4]

See also