Kiss Tells House Leaders There is No Speaker’s Race

House Speaker Bob Kiss has called a halt to some jockeying for his position that grew out of rumors that he was leaving the House.

“I’m speaker for a two-year term,” he said last week. “I don’t plan to go anywhere.”

Kiss, D-Raleigh, said he had a meeting with some members of his senior leadership team after two new delegates asked him what to do about the speaker’s race. He told them if they were stroking delegates to stop.

If he runs for another office next year, Kiss feels an obligation to make a decision by this summer, and announce it.

“I am considering some things. I am not thinking about governor.” Asked if he was thinking about running for the state Supreme Court – as is being speculated – Kiss sidestepped and said, “I’m giving thought to a number of things.” He said he doesn’t know if he’ll run for re-election to the House.

Majority Whip Scott Varner, D-Marshall, and Delegates Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, and Richard Thompson, D-Wayne, reportedly had their sights set on being speaker.

“Until he leaves, I’m not interested,” Varner said last week. “He’s never indicated he’s leaving. He’s the speaker. I support him until he leaves.” If Kiss leaves, Varner is interested in the position.

Varner said he’s heard that someone is talking with Thompson about running for speaker. Thompson is a lawyer and one of several (Varner included) labor-endorsed delegates.

While not a member of the leadership team, Kiss asked Thompson to attend the meeting, too.

“The way I look at it, we have a speaker,” Thompson said Friday. “That isn’t to say I wouldn’t be interested” if Kiss left, he added.

Thompson said rumors were rampant that Kiss was leaving, and there was general talk about “what if that were to occur. A number of delegates asked me if I would be willing to do it.” Thompson said he would.

“Right now, it’s up in the air. If the situation changes, we’ll have to be ready. We’ll just have to wait.

“I think there will continue to be talk,” Thompson said, as long as the rumors continue.

Browning was defeated by labor in 1996 after he voted for a labor-opposed workers’ compensation reform bill in 1995. He was elected again in 2000.

Basically, everyone thought Kiss wasn’t going to run for re-election, Browning said. “I told Bob if he chose to come back, I would support him. If he didn’t, I was going to run.” Browning said he didn’t campaign for speaker during the session, and had told Kiss last December he wouldn’t.

Majority Leader Rick Staton, D-Wyoming, said Kiss told the meeting there isn’t a speaker’s race. “I agree.” Staton was viewed as labor’s candidate for a brief period of jockeying in 1999 until the state Supreme Court ruled that Kiss couldn’t serve as a justice after his appointment to the bench by then-Gov. Cecil Underwood.

Staton said he will seek re-election to the House. If the speaker’s position is open then, Staton said it would depend on the situation whether he’d be interested in running for the top job.

Those who were in the meeting during the week that budget conferees met included Varner; Browning; Staton; Finance Chairman Harold Michael, D-Hardy; Education Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta, D-Hampshire; Thompson; and Delegate Emily Yeager, D-McDowell, who was campaigning for Thompson.

SHORTS – Gov. Bob Wise announced at a fund-raiser that was held for him in Huntington on March 28 that $ 300,000 raised by that event put the overall total for his re-election campaign at more than $ 1 million. The Huntington event was sponsored by businessman Robert Shell, his sons, Robby Shell (president of the family Guyan Machinery business) and Todd Shell, vice president of Guyan Rebuilders.

Others attending included: Huntington businessman Marshall Reynolds, owner of Chapman Printing; retired banking executive Mike Perry; Paul Turman II, of Turman Construction in Barboursville; Huntington lawyer Menis Ketchum and his son, Brent Ketchum, also a lawyer; Brent Marsteller, administrator at Cabell Huntington Hospital; Dr. Robert Walker from the Marshall University medical school; Mike Sundall from St. Mary’s Hospital; Wylie Stowers, Lincoln County Democratic chairman, and his sons, Greg Stowers, Lincoln County circuit clerk, and Lyle Stowers, second vice chairman of the state Democratic Executive Committee; and former Sen. Lloyd Jackson II, D-Lincoln.

Congressman Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., had a fund-raiser for Wise at his home in Beckley on March 24 and reportedly raised about $ 11,000. Rahall called people and invited them to attend. Congressman Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., had a big fund-raiser for Wise in Morgantown on March 17, and Drew Payne, a Republican member of the West Virginia Racing Commission, had a private dinner last month for Wise.

Wise traveled to Gilbert on March 27 to cut a ribbon for the opening of Terry Sammons’ wife’s Morning Side Coffee Shop. Terry Sammons is a prominent Republican who practices law in Mingo County and was appointed by Wise to the Higher Education Policy Commission.


Rob Capehart, former secretary of tax and revenue, says he has a moratorium on his campaign fund-raising activities during the war, but went ahead with a reception in Wheeling on March 21, the day after the war started. Capehart is exploring whether to run for governor on the Republican ticket next year. He said the reception at the Wheeling County Club had already been organized, but he stopped making phone calls to get people to attend even before the war started because so many of the people had relatives in the military. Capehart said more than 100 people attended. Steve Cohen, who formerly worked for Wise and is a member of the country club, was Capehart’s first contributor for the reception.

Capehart said he has raised about $ 20,000 to $ 25,000 so far during his exploratory campaign to pay for his travel expenses and a poll. He would like to raise another $ 25,000 for the exploratory campaign that will determine whether he’ll become a candidate for governor. He has been speaking at several Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinners, including dinners in Wetzel, Roane, Mercer and Wood counties. Former Highways Commissioner Sam Beverage, who is also a potential gubernatorial candidate, has attended the dinners, too, Capehart said. Capehart also spoke last month to the Harrison County Republican Club, which was recently started by former Sen. Jay Wolfe, R-Harrison.

He spoke in Point Pleasant on March 29 at a meeting of the West Virginia chapter of the Citizens for a Sound Economy, a large national organization, and at a rally for American troops at the Mason County courthouse. Most of Capehart’s family lives in Mason County. Other prominent Republicans are on the Lincoln Day circuit, too. Former Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr., was the Jefferson County Lincoln Day speaker on March 28, and is to speak in Clarksburg on April 12. His daughter, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was the Jackson County dinner speaker on March 29.