CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson said Wednesday he is confident he will continue in that role in the 2013 legislative session, even though Republicans gained 11 seats in the House Tuesday.
"I've always worked with all members of the House on the issues, Democrats and Republicans," said Thompson, D-Wayne. "I think we will continue to do that."
With Tuesday's election, Republicans hold 46 of the 100 seats in the House, the highest number since 1928 -- a year that marked the last Republican majority in the House.
While he stopped short of predicting a change of House leadership, House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said Republicans will have a greater say in issues affecting the House next session.
"Right now, what we're really wanting to do is to work with the members of the Democratic caucus who feel as we do that there need to be some significant changes, that we need to be sure bold steps are taken to improve our economy, and not just nibbling around the edges," Armstead said.
In December, the 54 Democratic members of the House will meet in a closed-door caucus to nominate a House speaker for the 81st Legislature. Traditionally, House Democrats vote as a bloc to formally elect that individual on the first day of the regular session.
However, if House Republicans persuade five conservative Democrats to defect, the grounds could be in place to elect a more conservative Democrat as speaker.
"We feel like there's a number of conservative Democrats we'll be able to work with," Armstead said Wednesday.
If that doesn't translate into a change in leadership, it will certainly make it more likely that Republican-backed legislation get consideration in the House, he said.
"I think this will make a real difference in our ability to get bills we would like to see be discussed and taken up in committee," he said, adding, "In the past, we've been blocked time and time again by the Democratic majority."
Thompson, however, said he doesn't think Republican gains in the House will result in seismic changes.