BY: Brad McElhinny, WV MetroNews
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Delegate Roger Hanshaw won a rematch with House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson to continue as Speaker of the House of Delegates.
“My objective is now the same as it was in August, and that was to continue to advocate on behalf of things to put West Virginians back to work,” Hanshaw said after Sunday’s caucus vote.
Hanshaw, R-Clay, was selected Speaker by the Republican majority in August, after the departure of Tim Armstead. He narrowly defeated Nelson in a caucus vote.
Republican delegates voted again for Speaker on Sunday afternoon because a new House is being seated coming out of the General Election.
A vote of the full Legislature on the Speaker position will happen at the start of the regular session, but the majority’s pick will serve.
Nineteen new Republican delegates made it unclear whether Hanshaw would remain Speaker or if Nelson, R-Kanawha, might have the votes to win the role this time.
The Republican majority is also smaller. It had been a 64-member caucus, and it now is 59. Three members of the caucus were absent for Sunday’s vote.
Republicans were behind closed doors about three hours on Sunday afternoon, hearing presentations by both Hanshaw and Nelson — and taking opportunities to question them.
With the final vote came a cheer that could be heard in the Rotunda.
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.
Hanshaw had been the vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. That meant he was among the delegates overseeing the impeachment of the state Supreme Court.
Hanshaw has some decisions coming in short order about his leadership team.
Armstead’s team largely remained in place leading into Sunday’s vote, but that may change how.
Hanshaw had announced, though, that his majority leader would be Delegate Riley Moore, R-Jefferson. But Moore wound up losing his re-election bid.
Hanshaw said that position and others will be shored up within the next couple of weeks.
“It would have been premature to have named those folks prior to today,” he said, “but now we’ll be making committee assignments and naming leadership positions over the course of the next week to 10 days.”
Among the questions is whether Nelson would remain as Finance chairman. Hanshaw did not commit one way or another. and instead spoke more broadly.
“It does remain to be seen,” Hanshaw said. “We just this afternoon asked the members to rank their preferences for committee assignments, leadership roles and policy positions.
“I haven’t looked at those forms yet to see where people think their talents line up, but certainly all that is on the table.”
Hanshaw said when the regular legislative session begins next month, his own support will be behind bills aiming at improving West Virginia’s economic outlook.
“The most important policy objective of this Republican House is to continue to put West Virginians back to work,” he said.
Hanshaw said the aim would be not only external investment but also entrepreneurial growth.
“We spend an awful lot of time here and do an awful lot of work to recruit external companies to West Virginia. We don’t do enough to make it easy for people to start and grow something here.
“We are one of the lowest states for entrepreneurial activity in the nation. That’s got to stop. If we’re going to see the kind of economic recovery here we want as a state, a significant part of that is going to have to come from within our borders.”