T.W. Shannon moves a step closer Thursday to becoming the first black person to serve as speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Shannon, R-Lawton, who was elected about a year ago by House Republicans as speaker-designate, will have his title changed to speaker-elect.
The 72 House Republicans, including 13 newcomers, will meet in a closed caucus to fill several leadership positions.
Shannon will succeed Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, who could not seek re-election because of 12-year legislative term limits. Shannon isn’t term-limited until 2018.
A human resources and public relations consultant, Shannon previously worked on the congressional staffs of former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore. He was the first Republican elected from House District 62.
No one filed against Shannon for the speaker-elect post. Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, R-Fairivew, is seeking to retain his leadership post Thursday; he’s opposed by Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid. Several other positions such as assistant floor leader and assistant majority whip will be decided. Rep. Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa, will continue as caucus chairman because no one filed against him.
Shannon, 34, will officially become speaker in January during an organizational meeting of the House. The four-month session begins in early February.
He downplayed the historic significance of his becoming speaker.
“I’m also part Chickasaw and the real story is a Chickasaw getting elected in Comanche territory,” Shannon joked.
Shannon said he is proud of his heritage, but that’s not his focus.
“I ran as a conservative and that’s why I got elected, not because of what I look like,” he said. “It’s not the deciding factor of how I vote. It’s part of who I am.”