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Miley closer to becoming next W.Va. House speaker

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.

Both parties likely will caucus on Monday to officially determine their nominees for speaker before a special Legislative session is held Tuesday to elect the new speaker.

Miley, who drew the support of labor unions, has been portrayed by Republicans and the state Chamber of Commerce as the more liberal candidate, a charge he disputes.

"Many critics of Democrats like to paint Democratic state legislators with the Obama brush when we have nothing whatsoever to do with federal legislation or what is being done at that level," Miley said. "We just have to make sure that our message of what we've done gets spread among the noise coming out of Washington."

Miley said the best way to lead the House and to preserve the Democrats' slim majority ahead of the 2014 elections is to compromise and pass good legislation.

"You may want these 10 things in a bill and I may want these other 10 things in a bill and only six of them are common to the two of us," Miley said. "I'm really hopeful, maybe I'm just naïve in this regard, but I really believe that we can all, Democrats and, of course, Republicans, we can all work pretty well together and pass good legislation."

If Miley does become speaker, he will need a new House Judiciary chairman, to replace himself, but he was noncommittal about other potential changes in House leadership.

"I truly haven't sat down and given much more than a fleeting thought," Miley said. "Keep in mind I campaigned on the platform of stability, so I don't expect there to be significant changes but, obviously, there will be some."

No one would say if one of those changes would involve the influential Finance Committee, which White currently chairs.

"I would hope that the new speaker decides to keep me on," White said. "That's one thing we really didn't talk about."

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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