By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9
The start of the legislative session is still five days away and yet the wheeling and dealing at the Capitol has already begun.
That's because the election of the next Speaker of the House is also five days away and there's quite a bit of interest in who that will be.
There's an interesting twist now in the race for Speaker, one of the most powerful and coveted positions in state government. A new player is attempting to enter the fray, the minority caucus.
"We pay the best teachers more, it just makes sense,"
Speaker Pro Tem, Gus Blackwell, talked to reporters about teacher pay and other issues at today's Legislative Forum. But, it was his quest to become the next Speaker that drew the most interest.
"I was elected by the caucus," Blackwell said. "I was elected by the House, as Speaker Pro Tem."
Blackwell is one of four members of the majority Republican caucus who have filed in the Speaker's race. The others are Braman Rep. Dale DeWitt, Rep. Susan Winchester, from Chickasha and Broken Arrow's Rep. John Wright.
"And I do feel confident that each person running for Speaker would support me if I were elected, and I, in turn, will support anyone that the caucus elects as speaker," Blackwell said.
But the minority Democrats don't support Blackwell. They say last session he and then-Speaker Cargill often excluded Democrats from debate, even cutting off their microphones on one occasion.
"There's still a lot of our membership that did not appreciate that because we're all entitled to make statements on the floor," Rep. Danny Morgan (D) House Democratic Leader said.
The result is, House Democrats made it clear today they might be willing to put their 44 votes behind a Republican Speaker candidate who's willing to give them more of a voice.
"We could certainly be willing to talk to anyone who wants to talk with our caucus," Morgan said.
Governor Henry told reporters today he also hopes the next Speaker will be more inclusive, but stopped short of endorsing any of the candidates.
"It doesn't matter to me who the Speaker of the House of Representatives is or the Pro Tem of the Senate, I'm going to have the same approach and be inclusive and work with anybody, whoever is at the table," Henry said.
Attempts to call the various Speaker candidates and along with others in the know at the Capitol were made, but no word was given on whether Winchester, Wright or DeWitt have reached out to the Democrats. One source revealed it is a possibility.
The Republican caucus is expected to select its Speaker nominee next Monday morning.
That person then has to be approved by the entire House.