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It's hard to gauge odds in the speaker's race

Counting votes in the West Virginia House of Delegates is a little like trying to count the number of fish in a koi pond; no matter how many times you count, you get a different outcome.

Ask the head counters for the numbers in the race between Delegates Harry Keith White and Tim Miley for speaker of the House and they will give you varying figures, largely depending upon which camp they are aligned with.

The general consensus this week was that Miley and White were within a few votes of each other, but neither had the necessary 28 solid votes. (There are 54 Democrats in the House, so the winner needs at least 28 votes.)

Both camps have been focused on about 10 undecided delegates.

Miley's candidacy got a boost when a group of six delegates, who call themselves the "moderate coalition," made up of Ricky Moye (Raleigh), Margaret Smith (Lewis), Dana Lynch (Webster), and Margaret Staggers, David Perry and John Pino (Fayette) announced they are going with Miley.

Miley supporters contend that puts their candidate above 30.

However, the White camp counters that Miley is still short of the number needed. They also questioned whether all six of the "moderate coalition" are actually on board with Miley.

But Miley also created an impression that he had momentum by periodically sending out press releases throughout the day Wednesday as delegates, who were likely already in his corner, publicly announced their support for him.

Some White backers are angry with the AFL-CIO, contending the labor organization has been putting on the full court press for Miley because the vast majority of labor delegates are with Miley.

The Miley side says White supporters realize they are behind and are starting to sound desperate.

White, a banker by trade, is more business friendly, and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce would much rather have White running the House.

However, Chamber President Steve Roberts has tempered his lobbying, as well as his public comments, because he needs to have a working relationship with the winner, whether it's White or Miley.

But back to the head count.

The delegates pick their party leaders using a secret ballot during a closed-door caucus. In a contested election, there are usually a couple of delegates who have either privately committed to more than one candidate or simply change their mind at the last minute.

That's why the candidates always want to make sure they go in to the election with a few extra votes.

As of today, the advantage goes to Miley, but the date for the caucus has not been set.

It's still several weeks away. And when counting delegates, just like counting koi, the numbers can always change.

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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