CHARLESTON - With Republicans making gains in the West Virginia Legislature, local lawmakers feel the party will have more influence overall, but some prominent Democrats may maintain their leadership positions, including speaker of the House.
Democrats in the House of Delegates will meet in caucus at the state Capitol on Sunday. During that meeting, Delegate Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, is expected to be confirmed to maintain his position as speaker of the House by the Democratic majority. Thompson succeeded Bob Kiss in 2007.
During the last election, the Republicans gained 11 seats in the House and will have 46 of the 100 seats. The Republicans gained three seats in the West Virginia Senate for nine seats out of 34.
Many Republicans feel they will have greater influence over the direction legislation will take during the 2013 session scheduled to start in February, including issues such as job creation, tax reform and education reform.
"It is going to be interesting," said Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood.
Azinger expects Thompson will be re-elected as House speaker without much controversy.
"We are still five votes short of the majority," he said. "I guess we could put someone up and have five Democrats side with us. It could happen."
However, Azinger expects Thompson to get the position easily with the Democratic majority.
Azinger said Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, is expected to be re-elected as minority leader.
With the health committee being elevated to major committee status and more Republicans in the House, Azinger believes they will have a significant impact during the next session.
"It is definitely going to be interesting," he said.
Senate Republicans will meet in caucus 2 p.m. Monday when they will agree to nominate Sen. Mike Hall, minority leader, of Putnam County, said state Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants.
"I think we will all come together and support him," she said.
Two years ago, the Republicans were drawn into the Democratic Party squabble over who would succeed Earl Ray Tomblin as president of the Senate. Tomblin became acting governor upon Joe Manchin's election to the U.S. Senate.
State Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, was the eventual choice for president.
After that, the Republicans decided to stay out of the Democrats' business and offer their own nominee for president, Boley said.
The selection of the House speaker may be more of an issue this year, said state Sen. Dave Nohe, R-Wood.
"You would only need five votes to change the leadership," Nohe said.
Delegate Anna Border, R-Wood, said House Republicans will caucus Sunday and discuss options for speaker of the House.
"I imagine at that point we will know what the possibilities will be," she said. "We will know more after the caucus."
The Republicans have traditionally presented a candidate to run for speaker, but the Democratic candidate has won the floor vote because of the Democratic majority, Border said. It is always hard to guess what might happen, especially with so many new delegates entering the House, she said.
"I would like to see someone who was more business oriented in the position," Border said. "It will be interesting to see what happens."