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Delegate Brandon Steele Plans To Challenge Hanshaw for Speaker Post

DELEGATE BRANDON STEELE, R-RALEIGH

CHARLESTON — If House Speaker Roger Hanshaw decides to seek another term holding the gavel going into 2023, he will have a challenger.

House Government Organization Committee Chairman Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, announced Monday on a news aggregator website he owns that he will challenge Hanshaw, R-Clay, for a two-year term as speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

“Based upon the inability of our leadership to accomplish the policy objectives our constituents elected us to achieve, I will seek election as Speaker of the House after the November election,” Steele said.

According to the statement, Steele informed Hanshaw last week that he would seek the speakership.

He also said he would be willing to keep serving as House Government Organization Committee chairman as long as Hanshaw is willing to let him serve.

Hanshaw was unavailable for comment.

Steele was first elected to the House in 2018 and is in his second two-year term representing the Beckley area in the 29th House District. Steele was unopposed in the Republican primary for the new 42nd House District and no Democratic candidate filed to oppose him. Steele is an attorney in private practice, a former assistant county prosecutor and an entrepreneur.

Steele cited the recent paused special session between Aug. 25 and Aug. 29, when lawmakers were unable to pass a tax reform bill and a re-write of the state’s abortion laws.

House Bill 301, Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal for a 10% cut in personal income tax rates, passed the House by a wide margin, but was never taken up by the state Senate. An attempt was made by Delegate Shannon Kimes, R-Wood, to recommit the bill to the House Government Organization Committee to negotiate a compromise between the House and Senate. That motion failed.

House Bill 302 was an attempt to update and modernize West Virginia’s abortion laws. The bill would have created an abortion ban from fertilization on, except in very narrow circumstances. But both the Senate and House adjourned until being called back into special session by Hanshaw and Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, due to disagreements over amendments made by the Senate to the bill, including removing the felony criminal penalties for medical professionals accused of performing abortions outside the limited exceptions.

“I feel this time is crucial to solving the problems before us,” Steele said. “We must focus on achieving the goals and desires of our constituents as we have promised in the past. I believe our progress is stalled under the current leadership and a new direction and focus are necessary. That is evident from our inability to accomplish the objectives of the special session at the end of July.”

Hanshaw was elected by the House in 2018 to succeed former Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, who was appointed by Justice to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Hanshaw was elected to a full two-year term in 2019 and again in 2021. But each party caucus nominates a candidate for speaker in the fall prior to the beginning of the 60-day legislative session occurring on odd-numbered years.

Hanshaw, an attorney for Bowles Rice and a former staff attorney for the Senate Republican caucus prior to 2014 when Democratic lawmakers held the majority, was first elected to the House in 2014.

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