By Matthew Young, RealWV
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – In what would appear to be the opening salvo in the developing saga of a potential party-switch and Secretary of State bid, Del. Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, announced that he will be relinquishing his position as Minority Leader of West Virginia’s House of Delegates.
While Skaff has publicly stated that his decision to vacate the position of minority leader has nothing to do with the “rumors” surrounding his political future, both his timing, and his comments on Wednesday, would seem to suggest otherwise.
During an Aug. 2 appearance on Hoppy Kercheval’s “Talkline” morning radio program, Skaff said, “I will be stepping down as minority leader of the House of Delegates, approximately August 8 or 9 – whenever the Special Session concludes.”
The State Legislature’s August Interim Session is scheduled to take place between Aug. 6 and Aug. 8. However, while no official announcement has been made as of the time of writing, many in Charleston believe that Gov. Jim Justice will call for an overlapping Special Session of the Legislature which would potentially extend beyond that time period.
“Let me set the record straight – I wasn’t asked to step down, I wasn’t forced out,” Skaff told Kercheval. “I just think it’s time to step down as a leader. I always try to do what’s right for my constituents and my conscience.”
Referring to Skaff as a “moderate” Democrat, Kercheval’s line of questioning offered political cover for a potential forthcoming party-change announcement.
“Do you feel like you’re in step with those members (Democratic caucus)?” Kercheval asked. “Are you farther to the right than those members? Candidly, are you ideologically the best person to represent those members anyway?”
Skaff responded: “I had a great working relationship in that role – I got to work with Speaker Hanshaw (Roger, R-Clay), and work with Republicans. I’ve got a lot of great friends on the Republican side.”
“I’ve always been the conservative, mainstream, moderate delegate,” Skaff said. “You constantly get labeled whether you have a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ by your name, and it’s really unfortunate. I’m not gonna lie – that old-school, blue-dog Democrat, they’re few and far between now. Those blue-dog Democrats who were pro-gun, pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-life, they’re becoming fewer and fewer and it does make it tougher.”
“I pride myself on being a mainstream voice, an independent voice, and do what’s right for the people I represent,” Skaff added.
Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, will assume the role of Minority Leader at the conclusion of the August Legislative Session, be it interim or special.
A written statement released moments after Skaff’s appearance on Talkline reiterated the outgoing minority leader’s appreciation for the time spent with Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw. However, much as with his comments to Kercheval, Skaff failed to reiterate that same sentiment for any particular Democratic colleague.
Although, regarding incoming Minority Leader Hornbuckle, Skaff did note that, “Sean is a strong leader, delegate, and friend – I know that he will lead the caucus well.”
After the announcement had been made public, West Virginia Senate Minority Leader Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, seemingly tried to get ahead of any potential party-change announcements which Skaff may soon make.
In a statement of his own, Woelfel said, “We (Skaff and Woelfel) have been aligned on important legislation and united in opposition to the far-right extremism coming from some of our colleagues across the aisle.”
“I commend Doug Skaff for his forward thinking in allowing fresh talent to step into the role,” Woelfel added.
RealWV will provide full coverage of the upcoming Legislative Session, beginning Sunday, Aug. 6.