CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, is banking on a contested floor election for House speaker next week, it could be unprecedented.
House rules permit multiple nominees for speaker, and require multiple ballots until a winner achieves a majority vote of the members of the House.
"I've been here 41 years, and never experienced a mid-term situation like this," House Clerk Greg Gray said Monday.
Gray has seen contested votes "in caucus, but never on the floor."
Traditionally, once the majority party -- Democrats since 1933 -- nominates a speaker candidate, members of that party vote as a bloc on the floor, assuring their candidate's victory. Members of the minority party traditionally nominate their minority leader in a symbolic gesture.
House Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, has indicated he has commitments from 37 of the House's 53 Democrats -- not counting the vacancy that will occur Saturday, when current House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, resigns to accept a gubernatorial appointment as secretary of the Department of Veterans Assistance.
That's enough votes to win the Democratic nomination in caucus, but not enough to win the speaker's race on first ballot if a majority of the other 16 Democrats break with tradition.
Although he evidently lacks the votes to win the Democratic nomination in caucus, White has not conceded the speaker's race.