CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, in announcing his candidacy for House of Delegates speaker Monday, said he has enough votes to win both the party caucus and floor vote.
"If I didn't think I had sufficient votes to win, I would not have announced today," said White, who has served nearly 21 years in the House, including the past seven as Finance Committee chairman.
White, a banker in Gilbert, was the last of the four presumptive front-runners for the position being vacated by House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, to officially comment on the race.
"It's been a very positive weekend," White said. "A lot of people contacted me."
Thompson announced Thursday he would resign from the House on June 15 to accept an appointment as secretary of the state Department of Veterans Assistance.
Following that announcement, White's name surfaced on a short list of possible successors, along with Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison; and Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha.
"I've served under five governors, two speakers, and three Finance chairs, and for the past seven years have been Finance chairman," White said. "I think I'm qualified to take the next step, for speaker of the House."
There has been speculation that White and Skaff may be putting together a coalition to win the speaker's race. While White did not comment directly on that, he did say it is important that House leadership be a blend of members with experience, along with "young guns."
"I think I'll be able to get everybody together and get a consensus," he said. "There will be a lot of important issues facing us next session, and we need to go into the session with a unified front."
Skaff said he agrees with White that whoever wins the speaker's race will need the support of the core of younger, under-45 Democrats in the House.
"The speakership will be won by whichever candidate embraces the young guns the most," Skaff said. "It's just a matter of which coalitions are a better fit."
Skaff said he doesn't necessarily agree with White's assertion that he has the votes to win the speaker's race.
"I truly believe you can't maintain the status quo of keeping all the leadership positions in place, and only changing a new speaker," he said.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.