House speaker front runner drops out

Thursday, January 31st 2008, 8:05 pm
By: News 9

Associated Press

The race for speaker of the Oklahoma House was thrown into turmoil Thursday evening when the apparent front-runner, Republican Speaker Pro Tem Gus Blackwell, announced he was dropping out of the race.

Blackwell, of Goodwell, said he decided to remove himself for consideration for the House's top job after learning Thursday that he had paid his property taxes in Texas County late for the past 13 years.

"I was shocked and surprised," Blackwell said. "I have never been told that my taxes were late in any way shape or form.

"I'm not blaming anyone but myself."

Blackwell withdrew from the speaker's race a few hours after the House's GOP floor leader, Greg Piatt of Ardmore, told The Associated Press that Blackwell had secured enough votes to be designated as the next House speaker by his caucus.

Other Republican candidates for speaker said they did not believe that Blackwell, the House's second-ranking Republican, had enough votes to wrap up the race to replace former GOP House Speaker Lance Cargill.

Cargill stepped down earlier this week following a series of embarrassing revelations -- including submitting late property tax payments and not filing state personal income tax returns.