CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For only the second time in state history, the House of Delegates will convene in special session at noon Tuesday to elect a speaker.
Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, resigned Saturday to accept a gubernatorial appointment as secretary of the Department of Veterans' Assistance.
That created only the third mid-term vacancy in the speaker's office in state history, and only the second requiring a special session.
In 1971, Speaker Ivor Boiarsky died on the 59th day of the regular session. When the House convened the next day, March 13, the members elected Lew McManus as the new speaker.
The only other time the House was called into special session to fill a speaker's vacancy was June 23, 1958, when Gov. Cecil Underwood called a special session to replace W. E. Flannery, who had died of a heart attack that March.
Unlike today's session, when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will call only the House into session, Underwood called the full Legislature into session, to also pass two bills dealing with unemployment compensation.
House Journal records show that the House convened at 2 p.m., and in short order, not only elected Harry R. Pauley speaker in a 57-40 vote over Minority Leader George Siebert, but also swore in Flannery's widow, Mildred, to fill his House seat, and adopted memorial resolutions for Flannery and another former delegate.
The House recessed in time to hear Underwood briefly address a joint session of the Legislature at 3:10 p.m., records show.
Expectations are that today's special session will also be brief, with House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White's announcement Friday that he was dropping out of the speaker's race and throwing his support to Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison.
That should pave the way for a traditional floor vote for speaker, with Democrats backing Miley, and the Republicans casting their votes for Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha.
Assuming all delegates are present, including the governor's appointee to replace Thompson as a Wayne County delegate, that should give Miley a 54-46 margin of victory.
This morning prior to the start of the special session, Democrats and Republicans will conduct closed-door caucuses to nominate their party's candidates for speaker, now a formality with White's decision Friday.Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.