T.W. Shannon, who made history Tuesday by being elected the first black speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, pledged to push pro-business and conservative policies to show the rest of the country how they create prosperity and said he would buck intrusion by the federal government.
“We live in a country with an out-of-control federal government that is bankrupt financially and morally,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “As a result, we have fewer freedoms, we pay more in taxes than we should, and there is little hope of these things changing under our current president and this Congress. So let me say this: The state of Oklahoma will not be following the lead of Washington, D.C. Not on my watch.
“In fact, we will push back at every turn,” said Shannon, who at 34 is also the youngest speaker in the state's 106-year history. “We will fight every invasive regulation. We will refuse each costly expansion.”
Shannon, easily elected to the powerful post, also had a message for the country's first black president, Barack Obama, on how to balance the budget.
“Mr. President, if you're listening, I'll give you a hint: The key is controlling spending, not raising taxes,” he said.
Shannon quoted slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to address how he would work with Democrats as well as the House Republicans who broke party ranks the past two years and foiled passage of several key GOP-supported measures.
“You will find that I am bold in expressing my vision and dream,” Shannon said. “I will not bend from my determination and principles, but I also believe that this House should not be governed by division. Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘We must live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.'
“We won't always agree on every issue, but I hope we can all agree on this: We are each made in the image of God. As your speaker, I pledge to always treat you in this way, with dignity and respect no matter who you are or which party you belong to.”
Democrats, who are outnumbered 72-29, nominated Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, for speaker. On a party-line vote, Shannon was elected 69-28.
Shannon had kind words for Inman, who was elected to the House in 2006, the same year as Shannon.
“I count on you as a competitor and a friend, not as an enemy,” he said.
Inman said he hoped Shannon would be able to quiet the fringe elements of his caucus and focus on policies that are best for the state.
“If he will stay focused on those issues that will improve education, health care and transportation in the state of Oklahoma, then he will find a willing ally in me as the leader of the Democratic caucus and in my members,” Inman said.
Shannon, only the sixth Republican speaker in Oklahoma history, afterward downplayed his historic election.
“I am honored that the (Republican) caucus would select me,” he said. “This caucus chose me because they think I've got a skill set that can help lead the House and also lead the state. I'm excited to do that. It's going to be a team effort.”
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