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Statehouse Beat: Latest on speaker election

CHARLESTON, W.V.a. -- The latest update in the House speaker's race is that nothing much has changed: Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley has enough commitments to win the Democratic nomination in caucus, but apparently not enough to convince House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, to withdraw his candidacy.

Their meeting in Charleston Thursday evening to try to work out an agreement for White to drop his candidacy in order to allow the Democratic caucus to nominate Miley by acclamation did not prove fruitful.

White said Friday he's banking on picking up votes on the House floor, possibly with the nomination of a third or fourth speaker candidate from the floor to divide up the votes.

Election of the speaker requires a majority vote of the membership, and if no one gets 51, the voting continues until someone gets that majority. (If there are multiple candidates, the one getting the lowest number of votes each round is dropped.)

Normally, election of the speaker is a foregone conclusion by the time it gets to the floor vote: Democrats vote for the speaker-elect and Republicans symbolically cast their votes for the minority leader.

White's scenario requires getting Republicans to vote for him for speaker instead of traditionally voting for their minority leader (currently Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha).

That could get interesting with a potential first-round ballot of Miley, White, Armstead, and possibly a fourth candidate nominated from the floor -- with none assured of getting that magic 51st vote.

The simplest option from Miley's perspective might be to agree to leave White as Finance chairman. Though normally a plum appointment, whoever is chairman in the 2014 session will face another lean financial year, and will end up spending a lot of time saying no to constituent groups, and other legislators.

(In fact, White and Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, were commiserating during the abbreviated May interims about the unpleasantness of

Meanwhile, GOP operative Rob Cornelius continues to attempt to undermine White's speaker candidacy, amending his election complaint against White filed May 28 in the secretary of state's office to cite five, and possibly six, additional instances where White used unexpended balances from previous campaign balances to pay for dinners for House Finance Committee staff.

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Meanwhile, in a matter of weeks, Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, has gone from potential congressional candidate, to running for House speaker, then throwing his support to White in hopes of being House majority leader, to announcing he will seek the Democratic nomination for the 17th District Senate seat, which will be open in 2014, since Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, is not seeking re-election.

Its unlikely Skaff will get a free ride in the primary.

There's been talk that Skaff's siding with White in the speaker's race may have hurt more than it helped, with some delegates put off by the young delegate's constant self-promotion, and some of the Kanawha delegation still holding a grudge for Skaff's breaking up of the old 30th Delegate mega-district.

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Finally, the governor is the only state official allowed to accept gifts valued at more than $25, on behalf of the state, and is required to report those gifts to the Ethics Commission.

Among the neatest items Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has received of late is a personalized West Virginia University baseball jersey, presented by WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck, and on display at the governor's mansion.

Other gifts on display at the mansion: Two sesquicentennial coins (one silver, one gold), and a Japanese painting by Uemura Shoen, presented by Diamond Electric Manufacturing.

Gifts on display in either the governor's office or reception room: A wooden pen and case engraved with the Summit Bechtel Reserve logo, from the Boy Scouts of America; a sandcastle sculpture from U.S. Silica operations manager Al Guizdala; an engraved silver Waterford Marquis pen, from the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia; a small coal miner sculpture from a delegation from Turkey, and a glass paperweight and wooden stand from the West Virginia Primary Care Association.

Gifts on display at the Culture Center include a personalized firefighter's helmet from the West Virginia Firemen's Association, and a collection of framed photographs from Charleston Catholic High School. 

While it is noted that some gifts are displayed in the Governor's Mansion, reception room, offices, or at the Culture Center, many get the ignominious "sent to Culture and History," which is a nice way of saying into storage in the archives.

Among those items:  A "Save the Miners" ballcap from Jason Parsons; a Puerto Rico sports jersey from Angelo Zayas, a resident of the Barboursville Veterans Home; a small banner from the City of Jesus Ministries; a Concord University football shirt; and a framed poem from Delegate Brady Paxton, D-Putnam.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.

 

 


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