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Race for House speaker is a complex matter

If there were a mathematical equation for the jockeying for position to be the next speaker of the House of Delegates, it would look like this: c > p.

There are more candidates (c) than positions (p).

We have at least six delegates in play for five top positions: speaker, majority leader, whip, finance chairman and judiciary chairman.

This conundrum might be a little easier to solve if it were just a matter of leaving one person out, but it's more complicated than that. Each of these House members believes he is best qualified to hold the top position of speaker.

Add in some ego and you have a problem that, unlike math, does not have a perfect answer.

It's difficult to imagine now that the key players in the House leadership selection process  - Delegates Brent Boggs, Mike Caputo, Tim Miley, Don Perdue, Doug Skaff and Harry Keith White - can come out of it without some hard feelings.

Yes, everyone goes into the race pledging to keep the discussions professional, but inevitably, for some, it becomes personal.

There was a meeting of Miley, Skaff and White that produced no resolution. Boggs noted that he was not invited.

That was followed by a meeting with all the players except Skaff that produced the same result.

On Talkline, White publicly expressed his interest, and strongly suggested that he was teaming up with Skaff to form a partnership of the old guard and the young guns. The next day, the Daily Mail quoted Skaff as saying he hadn't joined with anyone.

White felt he was left hanging, but he and Skaff either patched up their differences or concluded that their mutual interests would be accomplished by working together.

Skaff issued a release saying he and White had partnered "to form a united leadership team aimed at moving West Virginia forward."

Miley, meanwhile, appeared torn between wanting to be the House leader and running next year for the 12th Senatorial District seat now held by his political rival, Sam Cann. Miley wants to keep good relations with Boggs, who is from Braxton County, a key county in the 12th.

But Miley has now decided to go all in on the speaker's race, and he believes it's a two-man contest between himself and White. Boggs, Caputo and Perdue are siding with Miley.

The delegates have also been factoring in an ongoing federal investigation into possible political corruption in Mingo County, White's home county.

White has not been implicated in any way and the investigation may not turn up anything, but if it does, it will be fodder for Republicans.

Then there is an important philosophical aspect. If there's one thing most of the players agree on, it's that the leadership team wants to find balance - a team that doesn't tilt too much to the left or right.

There is also a major change vs. status quo issue. White and Skaff are more inclined to shake things up, while Miley, Boggs and Caputo are more inclined toward stability.

But no matter how many ways the numbers are calculated, there's no way to accommodate everyone. Either a couple of the players need to step aside or be shoved aside.

That's just the math.

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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