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Miley elected House of Delegates speaker

Lawrence Pierce
New Speaker of the House Tim Miley, D-Harrison, speaks to his fellow delegates on Tuesday as Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, and Miley"s wife, Susan, look on.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Delegate Tim Miley, D-Harrison, was elected the 56th speaker of the House of Delegates Tuesday on a 53-44 vote that, in keeping with tradition, split mostly along party lines.

Miley, who has been a delegate for nine years and a Judiciary Committee chairman for the past four sessions, stressed unity and cooperation -- both with the 46 Republicans in the House, and with Democrats who had backed Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, in the speaker's race.

"What I think we all share is that our constituents elected us to work to create opportunities for economic success -- not only for the adults who voted for us, but also for their children," Miley said during an 18-minute speech following the roll-call vote.

Miley also repeatedly described himself as a moderate, in contrast with assertions by the state Republican Party, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, and the state Chamber of Commerce that portrayed the 47-year-old Bridgeport resident as a liberal trial lawyer.

"They'll find that I'm very fair, and open-minded, and deliberative," he said of his critics.

Introducing his parents, Robert and Sandra, Miley noted they had canceled out their votes for nearly 50 years, as a Republican and a Democrat.

"That may be where I get my moderate perspective on things, because I hear from both sides," he said.

The 90-minute session marked only the second time in the state's history that the House of Delegates has been called into special session to fill a vacancy in the speakership. Former Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, resigned at midnight Saturday to accept a gubernatorial appointment as secretary of the Department of Veterans Assistance.

Until Friday, it appeared that the speaker's election could set another precedent with the potential for a contested, multiple-ballot floor vote. That was put to rest when White dropped out of the race, throwing his support to Miley.

In his speech, Miley recognized White as, "A man of class, dignity and character that is unequaled by anyone I have served with."

Afterward, Miley declined to discuss leadership appointments, including whether White will stay on as Finance chairman, but did say, "I don't expect any significant changes."

With White out of the race, Tuesday's election followed the traditional template, with Democrats nominating Miley, and Republicans nominating Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha.

Keeping with tradition, the roll-call vote broke down primarily along party lines, with Miley and Armstead casting their votes for each other.

The only exception was Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, who crossed party lines and voted for Armstead. Delegates Troy Andes, R-Putnam; Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia; and Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, were absent.

Delegate Timothy Kinsey, D-Wayne -- appointed Tuesday morning by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to fill Thompson's vacancy and sworn in minutes before the special session convened at noon -- cast his first House vote for Miley.

While introducing his parents; wife, Susan; and stepdaughter, Jordin, Miley became choked up and took a moment to compose himself.

Afterward, he said of that moment, "You realize what an awesome responsibility and awesome honor it is to be speaker."

During the speech, Miley said he will have three key issues as speaker: Improving education, improving infrastructure -- including expanding high-speed Internet statewide -- and making the best use of the state's natural resources.

"I'm not one who tends to obsess on the past or obsess on negatives of the present," said Miley, who cited the successes of two Internet entrepreneurs from north-central West Virginia.

One, Mike Florio, started an NFL blog in his Clarksburg law office in 2001 and grew it into a multimillion-dollar enterprise, ProFootballTalk.

The other, Ben Queen, started a website while in high school to market his photographs of high school and little league sporting events.

"It wasn't too long before he was making more than his teachers were," Miley said of Queen, who graduated from Bridgeport High School this spring, and was on hand to photograph the special session.

"That is inspiring to me, because it shows what is the greatest resource of West Virginia, and that is its people," Miley said.

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


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