CHARLESTON — House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, announced his candidacy for House of Delegates speaker on Monday. According to statements released by White, he is confident that he has enough votes to win both the party caucus and floor vote.
“If I didn’t think I had sufficient votes to win, I would not have announced today,” said White, who has served nearly 21 years in the House, including the past seven as Finance Committee chairman.
White, a resident of Gilbert who serves as the President of the Bank of Mingo, was the last of the four presumptive front-runners for the position being vacated by House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, to officially comment on the race.
“It’s been a very positive weekend,” White said. “A lot of people contacted me.”
Speaker Thompson announced during a press conference last Thursday that he would resign from the House on June 15 to accept an appointment as secretary of the state Department of Veterans Assistance. Following that announcement, White’s name quickly surfaced on a short list of possible successors, along with Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha; Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; and Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison.
White was first elected to office in 1992 and has been re-elected for ten consecutive terms.
“I’ve served under five governors, two speakers and three Finance chairs, and for the past seven years I have been Finance chairman,” White said. “I think I’m qualified to take the next step, I’m ready to take the helm as the Speaker of the House.”
There has been speculation that White and Skaff may be putting together a coalition to win the speaker’s race. While White did not comment directly on that, he did say it is important that House leadership be a blend of members with experience, along with “young guns.”
“I think I’ll be able to get everybody together and get a consensus,” he said. “There will be a lot of important issues facing us next session, and we need to go into the session with a unified front. That’s the key to success.”
Speculation is that whoever wins the speaker’s race will do so because they were supported of the group of younger, under the age of 45, Democrat Delegates in the House.
Justin Marcum, D-Mingo, spoke with the Daily News regarding his support for his mentor, saying that he truly feels that White is the best man and smartest choice for the position.
“It’s a great day for Mingo County to have someone in place that has the potential to hold this high of an office,” stated Marcum. “This would be the highest state office that would ever be held by a Mingo County elected official, should Chairman White receive the appointment.”
“Chairman White works well with all the Delegates, regardless of age or party. I know he would do an amazing job, given the chance.”