CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Democrat Tim Miley is the new speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates.
The private-practice attorney from Harrison County was elected Tuesday as the House's new leader on a 53-44 vote in a special session called by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
"It's very humbling and very moving to be elected speaker of the House," Miley said after the special session. "Not everyone gets that honor, and I'm very grateful for having been chosen by my colleagues here in the House."
There was little doubt Miley, 47, who has served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee for the last four years, had enough support heading into Tuesday's special session.
The graduate of Duquesne University School of Law becomes the 56th speaker, replacing former Wayne County Democrat Rick Thompson, who resigned Saturday to accept Tomblin's appointment as cabinet secretary of the Department of Veterans Assistance.
After close to a month of political maneuvering, the Democratic candidates for speaker had come down to Miley and House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White of Mingo County.
With Miley announcing 37 public statements of support from Democratic delegates last week, White said Friday he would support Miley.
Republicans nominated House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, as speaker. The move was expected but largely ceremonial, as Republicans don't control the majority of seats or votes in the House.
Following House tradition, Miley and Armstead voted for one another.
Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, was the only other lawmaker to break ranks, as he voted for Armstead.
Republicans Troy Andes of Putnam County, Amanda Pasdon of Monongalia County and Ron Walters of Kanawha County were absent.
Miley told the House he wanted to continue to address issues concerning education, infrastructure and energy. During a speech he specifically talked about higher education and alternatives to a four-year college experience but didn't elaborate on his ideas after the session.
He credited his family, comprised of both Democrats and Republicans, with helping him "see both sides of an issue." At times fighting back tears, he thanked his family and friends for their support.
"When you're standing up there, you realize what an awesome responsibility and an awesome honor it is to be the speaker," Miley said. "It's one of those experiences you don't have very often in life, no matter who you are."
Several delegates thought White would be the one to have that experience Tuesday. Kanawha County Democrat Doug Skaff and Mingo County Democrat Justin Marcum were part of the "young gun" contingency of delegates who said during the speaker campaign that White could unite the newer and more experienced members of the House.
In part of her official nomination of Miley as speaker, House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, seemed to take a shot at the faction in a call for unity.
"To all of us, the 100 members of this House, including me: please, let's work to drop all of these labels that continue to be attached to us," Poling said.
"We cannot be successful as a body if we divide ourselves into groups such as the old guard versus the young guns, the status quo versus change, the left versus the right or the liberal versus the conservative. . .I could go on and on," Poling said.