- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Among the candidates to succeed embattled Virginia House of Delegates Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., should he resign, are some long-serving members who hold powerful posts.
Mr. Wilkins, Amherst Republican, met with Republican members last night to discuss two incidents of sexual harassment reported within the last week.
Should Mr. Wilkins resign, House rules stipulate that Lacey E. Putney, chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee, would become interim speaker. Mr. Putney, a Bedford independent who caucuses with Republicans, has served in the House for 40 years.
Beyond that, the most frequently mentioned name is House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican.
Mr. Griffith, 44, was elected to the House in 1994 and became majority leader three years ago. He's well-known for his willingness to pick a fight and his ability to win them.
Mr. Griffith has led the Republicans in disputes over statewide redistricting and sales-tax referendums. He has clashed with lawmakers in Roanoke over judicial appointments and taxes there.
After helping to create new legislative district boundaries leading up to last November's elections, he campaigned for Republican candidates in those redrawn districts.
But Mr. Griffith has had his own brushes with the scandals involving the Virginia Republican Party this year.
Mr. Griffith's press secretary, who is no longer working for him, was involved in a probe into whether Republicans had illegally logged into a private Democratic Party conference call.
Another candidate to succeed Mr. Wilkins is Delegate Vincent F. Callahan, 68, of Fairfax. Mr. Callahan, who has been in the House since 1968, is chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee and is well-respected by Democrats and Republicans alike.
"He carries his power well," said one lobbyist. "He's been there, done that, seen it all. He doesn't panic."
As the House's chief negotiator over the state's budget last year, Mr. Callahan led Republicans who sided with then Gov. James S. Gilmore III to keep the car-tax rebate at 70 percent. The Senate wanted a 55 percent rebate, and the impasse was never resolved.
Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton of Newport News has also been mentioned as a candidate for the speakership.
Mr. Hamilton, 50, has served in the House since 1988.
Mr. Hamilton chairs the Health Welfare and Institutions Committee, which reflects one of his top priorities: mental health.
He was instrumental in creating an independent office to defend the rights of disabled people, prevent abuse and promote independence.
If Mr. Wilkins does not resign, he could be expelled from the House by a two-thirds vote from its members. Mr. Wilkins has been in the House for 24 years and took over as speaker three years ago.

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