CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In two interviews earlier this week, Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, indicated he was a lock to be the next chairman of the powerful House of Delegates Judiciary Committee.
But the committee’s chairman, Tim Manchin, D-Marion, said Thursday he has no plans to step aside from his post. And Hunt has since clarified his remarks, saying he was “so close” to becoming the committee’s chairman. He now serves as vice chairman.
“I spoke to House Speaker Tim Miley before the session ended, and we spoke about the number of bills that did not get passed,” Hunt recalled Thursday. “Tim told me he was going to make wholesale changes if we retain the House, which is not a foregone conclusion.”
West Virginia Democrats face their biggest challenge in decades for control of the House of Delegates, where all 100 seats are up for election. Republicans trail Democrats by six seats. If Republicans gain control, GOP delegates would head House committees.
In a meeting with Charleston Gazette editors Wednesday, Hunt said, “I’m the vice chairman of judiciary. I’ll be the next judiciary chairman if we retain control of the House.”
A day earlier, Hunt told the Charleston Daily Mail editorial board: “I’m this close to becoming chairman. I will be the next chairman if the Democrats retain the House. When that happens, I’m going to be able to control the agenda, and obviously, my first interest is Kanawha County.”
Hunt is running in the May Democratic primary against three challengers — incumbents Danny Wells and Nancy Guthrie, a former state senator Larry L. Rowe — in the 36th House District. The top three vote-getters will face Republican candidates in the November general election. Three House seats are at stake.
Asked Thursday about his comments about heading the judiciary committee, Hunt said he heard from “second and third parties, not Tim Miley himself” that Manchin hoped to serve as House Finance Committee chairman, a post now held by Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton.
“Leadership positions are like a Ouija board,” Hunt said…