By Mannix Porterfield
Confident but unassuming, even at this late date, Tim Miley says he is making no promises to anyone for positions of leadership in the House of Delegates if he is elevated as the next speaker during Tuesday’s scheduled special session.
Miley claims 37 pledged delegates among the 54 in the Democratic ranks in a race to succeed Delegate Rick Thompson, who is leaving to become the secretary of the Department of Veterans Assistance, and says that number could go higher.
“I feel good about the level of support people have committed to me to be the next speaker,” Miley said Wednesday.
“That number appears on the verge of getting higher, simply because many supporters of (Finance Chairman) Harry Keith White seem to recognize that I will prevail and therefore want to unify the Democrats in the House of Delegates behind one candidate. Obviously, the ultimate decision for that to happen rests with Harry Keith White.”
Even with this commanding lead, Miley isn’t claiming victory — yet.
“It’s never over until all the votes are counted, or all of my opponents concede, neither of which has happened yet,” the Harrison County lawmaker said.
Miley said he made no promises to anyone — and won’t offer anything — to get the gavel passed from Thompson to him.
“They’ve all committed to me and trusted my judgment and character and integrity as to how to manage the House of Delegates if I’m elected speaker,” he said.
Without elaborating, Miley said White has sought a promise “that certain people will stay in their position” if he yields to him.
In response to that, the judiciary chairman said he has consistently campaigned on a platform of stability, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean the status quo.”
“I’m just not going to put myself in a position of making promises and committing a position to anybody because I need to have the flexibility if I’m elected as the next speaker to make the changes that are necessary for the efficient operation of the House of Delegates,” he said.
For instance, Miley said, noting he gave White this example, Thompson’s replacement from Wayne County conceivably would be assigned to the government organization committee as a freshman, which means he would have to bump someone from that panel.
“I need the flexibility and discretion to make appropriate changes in committee assignments as are necessary to function appropriately in the House,” he said.
“I just can’t and won’t make any promises to anybody. If that costs me the election, fine. But I think people respect my decision and commitment not to make any promises and to do what is in the best interests of the House, which, in turn, is to work for the best interests of West Virginia, not necessarily for individual interests.”
Technically, this means no position is secure and all jobs on the leadership are open, he acknowledged.
“I don’t have any anticipation of significant personnel movement, but I certainly want to retain the right to do so if I’m elected selected as speaker,” Miley said.
“So, I just can’t make any promises.”
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is expected to appoint Thompson’s successor as delegate after Wayne County’s Democratic Executive Committee meets Monday night to come up with three names. The appointment is due before the Tuesday session in the House, maintaining the 100-member complement in the House. A spokesman for the Wayne County committee said, “The time frame is really short, but we’re working hard to get it done.”
There have been rumblings that enough disaffected Democrats might buck the party and side with the Republicans to install Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, as speaker, but Miley said he isn’t concerned about this remote prospect.
“I don’t let myself worry over things about which I have no control,” the front-runner said.
“It’s always a possibility in every speaker’s race that has occurred. I’ve not talked to anyone who said they will do it (defect).”
If named speaker, Miley pledged no retaliation against opponents, saying, “That’s not my nature.”
“I don’t have any intention of doing that,” he said.
“Even if it were my nature, obviously with the numbers, I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to. I’ve always campaigned very publicly and privately to maintain stability in the House. If I’m out here campaigning on a platform of stability, and I come in here and start slicing and dicing jobs, what kind of credibility am I’m going to have, not just in the public but more importantly with the members?”
Miley took exception to a recent label as “the most liberal candidate” in the race, pasted on him by West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts.
“I challenge anyone to show a difference between my voting record and Harry Keith White’s voting record over my nine years of being in the House of Delegates,” he said.
“It’s that kind of reckless language that causes good people not to want to be involved in politics because of exposure to that kind of attitude that people have.”
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