The speaker's job is a full-time position, White said. He commended Thompson on the job he has done, adding finance chairman is also a position that requires a great deal of work outside of the regular legislative session.
White said he feels like he's represented all of West Virginia in his last seven years as chairman of the finance committee. Working with the governor and both parties in both chambers to craft the state's massive budget has given him good perspective, he said.
It all comes down to who is best at working with different people, in Perdue's opinion.
"You have to find the best cat herder in the group, whoever can herd cats the best," Perdue said, adding he borrowed the phrase from longtime House speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh.
That's been Perdue's "stock and trade" during his 16 years in the Legislature. With the challenges facing West Virginia when it comes to implementing a new health care exchange and expanding Medicaid benefits, Perdue thinks his experience with health policy would be amplified as speaker.
He echoed Miley's concerns about a heated speaker's race, though.
"It's the second year of a session. We really can't afford to have some kind of divisive, fragmenting election. We need to have consensus," he said.
Republicans were excited to hear the news of Thompson's resignation.
House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said he and Thompson did not always agree but he considers him a friend. Armstead is optimistic the Republican party has the chance to woo five conservative Democrats in an effort to elect a GOP speaker.
State party chairman Conrad Lucas said Thompson's resignation is a sign that the GOP is all but guaranteed to grab control of the House in 2014.
"Thompson's actions should not surprise political observers in the least. It is not uncommon for career politicians to see a changing political tide and dodge impending defeat. This is a sign that the West Virginia Republican Party has shaken ranking Democrats to their very core," Lucas said in an emailed press release.
"It is no surprise that the Democrat leadership will make every attempt to avoid losing their jobs to Republicans by exiting before the inevitable," the release continued.
Thompson was first elected to the House in 1980, but left and became assistant prosecuting attorney for Wayne County in 1981, according to the Legislature website. Thompson returned to the House in 2000 and was first elected speaker in 2007. He replaced Kiss as one of the longest serving speakers in state history.
A new speaker must be elected within 10 days of Thompson's resignation, said House Clerk Greg Gray. White said he expects the resignation to take effect June 15.
Once Thompson officially resigns, Gray said Tomblin must call a special session of the House. Both parties will meet in caucus - a private meeting - and nominate someone as their candidate for speaker, Gray said.
Miley, Perdue and other Democrats said they expect to know their party's nomination within the next two weeks. The new leader will likely appoint different delegates as members of House leadership.
Other Top HeadlinesOfficial fears stretch of Buffalo intersection will turn deadly