CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Barring any last minute chicanery or changes of heart, Delegate Tim Miley will become the next speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates.
The race to succeed Speaker Rick Thompson, which started out with about a half-dozen candidates, had been winnowed to Miley, a Harrison County Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Delegate Harry Keith White, a Mingo County Democrat and chairman of the Finance Committee.
However, White endorsed Miley on Friday, citing the need for unity among the Democrats.
"At this point in time, we don't need to be dividing the Democratic Party," White said. "Tim and I, I guess we're still pretty good friends. We have been pretty good friends the last four or five years. Whichever one of us became speaker would try to keep the train in the middle of the track."
"I don't think we're all that far apart on anything anyway," White added.
With Democrats holding a slim majority in the House of Delegates -- they control 54 of the 100 seats -- Miley is confident that he will have enough votes to be elected speaker.
"Assuming all Democrats support me as their nominee, then, obviously, the numbers suggest that I will become the next speaker," Miley said. "I've spoken to virtually every Democrat, and none of them have indicated to me that they are going to vote with the Republican nominee."
Some Republican delegates have recently expressed hope that they can draw the support of four or five Democrats to their candidate.
"We feel like Republicans offer a new direction for our state," said Minority Leader Tim Armstead, the presumed Republican nominee for speaker. "We obviously invite any Democrats who want to join us to make bold changes for our state and put people back to work."
Thompson is stepping down from the House of Delegates to accept a position in Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Cabinet, as the secretary of Veterans Assistance.