CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The race for speaker of the state House of Delegates appears to be down to two candidates.
Democrats will be asked to choose between Finance Chairman Harry Keith White and Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley.
White, of Mingo County, and Delegate Doug Skaff of Kanawha County announced late Thursday they were working together on a leadership bid with White as the speaker candidate.
House Health Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said late Thursday that Miley would announce his candidacy today. Minority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, confirmed Miley's candidacy.
Perdue and Caputo plan to join ranks with Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, in endorsing Miley. All three formerly expressed interest in seeking the position themselves.
"That means, unfortunately ... we will have a contested race," Perdue said.
"Having said that, it really, hopefully, will not be that long, in terms of duration, and it will deliver the best result for everybody, and there will be little rancor afterward."
Democrats have haggled over the role in the week since Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, announced he would resign to take a cabinet position under Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
There is a fear a contested race could leave bruised egos heading into the next legislative session and the 2014 election cycle. With only a five-seat advantage over Republicans in the 100-member House, that's something Democrat leaders want to avoid.
"It certainly is a risk," Perdue said. "Anytime you have competition, there's potential for some to leave that competition with a negative feeling."
When White announced his candidacy Monday, he mentioned the benefits of a Skaff partnership.
"I also believe the future is now, and it is time that we partner with the next generation of leaders who will bring fresh ideas, creative thinking, and build new relationships that can help us through these very important years as our state is in transition," White said in his release.
Skaff initially denied any formal coalition but said Thursday it is in the best interest of the state for White to lead the House. White's candidacy as speaker is the only firm one in the leadership team thus far, Skaff said.