Oklahoma Republicans convene, set House in order

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: November 8, 2008 at 12:01 am •  Published: November 8, 2008
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House Republicans showed their confidence in House Speaker Chris Benge by again selecting him to serve in the top post for the next two years.

Because Republicans control the House, 61 to 40, it’s nearly certain Benge will win the post when legislators meet Jan. 6 to organize.

Benge, R-Tulsa, was named speaker designate during a meeting of the House Republican caucus. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, his only opponent, withdrew.

"It was a very nice gesture,” Benge said. "It was a showing of statesmanship and one that recognizes that we need to be unified and ready to get down and get to work.”

Benge’s unanimous approval as speaker is a contrast to his first election to the post in February. Then, House Republicans elected Benge as speaker designate by a close margin just hours before the start of this year’s legislative session. A new speaker had to be elected after Rep. Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, stepped down in January because of tax problems.

House members of both parties elected Benge by acclamation after Democratic leader Rep. Danny Morgan of Prague, withdrew from consideration.

Of the 58 House seats decided in Tuesday’s election, Republicans won 42, giving Republicans 61 – the most in state history.

Benge said he hopes to name leadership positions, such as floor leader, next week. Committee chairmen should be named by early December.


OTHER BUSINESS

Republicans

State House Speaker Pro Tempore Gus Blackwell of Goodwell lost his bid to be re-elected. Rep. Kris Steele of Shawnee won the post.

Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, also sought the post. It required two ballots for Steele to win.

"The pro tem has the opportunity to help create an environment within the Legislature that is respectful, inclusive and fair,” Steele said.

"Another very important role of the speaker pro tem is to assist the speaker.”

Vote totals and who was in the runoff are unknown because caucus business is done behind closed doors and members are asked to keep details secret.

Rep. John Wright of Broken Arrow was re-elected GOP House caucus chairman. Rep. Scott Martin of Norman also sought the post.

"I’m honored by my colleagues to continue to serve in this capacity,” Wright said.

Democrats

No one filed to run against House Democratic leaders. Rep. Danny Morgan of Prague will return as Democratic leader and Rep. Chuck Hoskin of Vinita will return as House Democratic caucus chairman.

House Democrats will hold their caucus next week.

WHAT’S AHEAD

All legislative members will be sworn into office Nov. 18.

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