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New W.Va. House Speaker to emerge this week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates will pick a new leader this week, with the Republican majority caucusing Tuesday evening to determine their choice.

Democrats will also caucus, likely picking House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, as their nominee. Then the full House of Delegates will vote during a 9 a.m. Wednesday floor session.

The House’s top leadership position opened because of last week’s resignation of Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. Gov. Jim Justice, on Saturday, named Armstead to one of two open seats on the Supreme Court.

The top contenders among Republicans are considered to be current Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, and Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, the vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, has put himself forward as an interim choice to carry through until after the General Election.

That’s also the case for Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, who will be leaving the Legislature after the election because he ran for Congress rather than for House of Delegates.

And Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, is a possible candidate for Speaker from outside current leadership.

John Overington

“Each candidate has some strengths and weaknesses,” said Speaker Pro Tem John Overington, R-Berkeley, who will preside over the floor session. “I think it’s great that we have five talented people who are interested in this position.

“You have some great administrators, you have people who have different degrees of being conservative, working with other people.”

Nelson and Hanshaw are considered the front-runners.

A super PAC, “1863 PAC,” has been running advertisements on broadcast and social media in support of Hanshaw.

It doesn’t appear 1863 PAC has yet registered with the Federal Elections Commission. The ads for Hanshaw don’t specifically mention the House Speaker race. Hanshaw is also running in Clay County to retain his seat in the House of Delegates.

A super PAC is a type of independent political action committee that may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates.

It’s not yet clear how delegates have reacted to an outside entity weighing in on their internal vote for a new leader.

Roger Hanshaw

Hanshaw, 38, was first elected to the House in 2014. He’s a lawyer with the Bowles, Rice firm, focusing on environmental and technical issues in business transactions, as well as regulatory compliance matters.

He also has a Ph.D. in chemistry and is a certified professional parliamentarian.

Nelson, 57, was first elected to the House in 2011 and became Finance Chairman in 2015.

He’s the president of Nelson Enterprises, an investment company focusing on real estate, natural resources, money management and entrepreneurial activity.

Eric Nelson

Both Nelson and Hanshaw have been busy with some of the Legislature’s ongoing, high-profile issues.

Both are on the PEIA Task Force, which is still in the process of determining the shape of insurance plans for public employees, as well as how to pay for the plans.

Hanshaw is co-chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on Flooding, which has been swept into a controversy over why state government has lagged on spending an available $150 million in federal grant money on relief for the devastating 2016 floods.

And Hanshaw, as vice chairman of Judiciary, has been among the delegates overseeing the impeachment of the Supreme Court. He is one of five official managers in that process, now responsible for presenting the impeachment case in upcoming Senate trials.

Tim Miley

Speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” House Minority Leader Miley said he would be able to work with either Nelson or Hanshaw.

“I can work with either one of those gentlemen,” Miley said. “I have for several years, so I would continue to work well with either of them who might be selected.”

Overington pointed out that this vote on the House Speaker will be in effect until after the General Election.

Prior to the next legislative session in January, delegates — including those who are newly-elected — would vote again on a Speaker.

“In fairness to those new members they should have a voice in determining the Speaker,” Overington said.

“In January is when you have the full body of newly elected members; that would be when there would be jockeying for different committee assignments and the whole gamut of things the speaker determines.”

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