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Democratic delegates face critical decisions

Four Democratic members of the West Virginia House of Delegates could be considered front runners to succeed Rick Thompson as speaker.

Thompson announced Thursday that he's stepping down next month to take a state job as secretary of Veterans Assistance.

The four are House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Miley from Harrison County, House Finance Committee Chairman Harry Keith White from Mingo County, House Majority Leader Brent Boggs from Braxton County and Delegate Doug Skaff from Kanawha County.

The Thompson announcement took House Democrats somewhat by surprise, and the candidates for his replacement have not yet had time to fully flush out the leadership race.

However, Miley, White and Skaff did gather in Charleston for a meeting. It's notable that Boggs was not invited.  

That meeting may produce a decision among the three as to who will be the candidate for speaker, with Boggs in the race regardless of what Miley, White and Skaff decide.

With that in mind, here are four possible scenarios:

  • Miley as speaker with Skaff as majority leader and White staying at Finance, with Boggs as the odd man out.

That also opens up the Judiciary Committee chairmanship, which could go to Marion County's Tim Manchin. It also likely takes Miley out of a 2014 challenge to state Sen. Sam Cann.

  • Skaff as speaker, with Miley as majority leader and White at Finance.

Again, that leaves Boggs out of the top tier, but Skaff would be inclined to find a leadership spot for him, possibly as Judiciary chairman.

  • White as speaker and Skaff as majority leader, with Miley staying at Judiciary.

That opens up the Senate Finance chairmanship. Under this scenario, Miley would more seriously consider running for the state Senate in 2014.

  • Boggs as speaker, with perhaps Randy Swartzmiller from Hancock County as majority leader.

Since it appears to be Boggs vs. Miley-Skaff-White, this scenario leaves Boggs in a position to build support by promising the chairmanships of the powerful Finance and Judiciary committees.

This will play out over the next several weeks.

Thompson will resign June 15, and the House must be called into session within 10 days to choose a new speaker. No doubt allegiances will shift many times between now and the end of the June.

And it's also possible that if a majority of the four cannot come to some agreement and hard feelings develop, they'll have to go to another House Democrat as a compromise candidate that everyone can agree upon.  

Meanwhile, the Republicans will watch with interest, hoping the selection devolves into a battle that splits the majority party.

That could make it harder for the Democrats to maintain their 54-46 advantage in the 2014 election.

A Republican surge in the next election would mean that all the maneuvering currently underway by Democrats was moot, since it will be the GOP that will have to make key leadership decisions.  

But for now, all the drama is with House Democrats.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.



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