Republicans netted 11 seats in 2012, in part after quietly funding several political action committees that targeted districts considered battlegrounds with attack ads. The Democrats had no comparable game plan, with its legislative incumbents receiving support instead from labor union PACs to mixed effect.
"We don't just need to maintain the majority. We need to grow it," said Boggs, a railroad engineer. "We need stability . . . I think we need to make minimal changes right here in mid-term. We need to get this taken care of in a manner that's as amicable as possible. . . . We need a unified House."
Thompson himself was an outsider when he first won the speakership. Then-Speaker Bob Kiss was leaving the Legislature in 2006 when Thompson overcame his majority whip, Scott Varner that November. Given that precedent, third-term Delegate Doug Skaff, a relative newcomer, is weighing a run for speaker.
The Kanawha County business owner is not strictly a backbencher. Skaff chairs a minor committee and is one of 10 assistant majority whips. Following Thompson's announcement last week, the 36-year-old pledged to regain ground for his party while giving a strong voice to its next generation of officeholders.
"I think we need to do something bold and drastic," Skaff said, "which is why I'm throwing my name in the mix."
Tomblin was largely successful this session, his first since winning a full term as governor in November. The Legislature passed all but four of his 32 proposals, including its centerpiece plan to improve public schools and another major bill tackling prison overcrowding. White, a banker, said that while the House always has its own priorities, working with the governor remains important.
"I think the governor will remain pretty aggressive with his agenda moving forward when it comes to job creation and education," White said. "Whoever ends up sitting in that seat, I think we all agree that has to happen in West Virginia. . . . I think it's very important going forward that we try to work together on those issues."
Once Thompson resigns, Tomblin has 10 days to call the House into session to choose a new speaker. The delegates in each party traditionally hold separate closed-door caucus meetings to nominate a candidate, and then the full House votes. Tomblin also must appoint someone to Thompson's then-vacant seat representing Wayne County. A special party executive committee will recommend names for that decision.