Arkansas House Elects Davy Carter As Speaker, 52-45

by Chuck Bartels  on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 5:22 pm  

The vote was 52 for Rep. Davy Carter of Cabot, above, and 45 for Rep. Terry Rice of Waldron.

The Arkansas House picked its first Republican speaker since Reconstruction on Thursday, but it took a coalition of Democrats to do it.

Rep. Davy Carter, R-Cabot, beat Rep. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, by a secret-ballot vote of 52-45 and will lead the House when the Legislature convenes in January. The vote came after House members withdrew support for Democratic Rep. Darrin Williams of Little Rock, who would have been the state's first black Speaker of the House if his party had maintained control of the 100-member chamber.

"We've got challenges we face that I honestly don't know the answers to," Carter told House members before the vote, disregarding remarks he had prepared to use. "I will do what I think is the right thing to do. That's all I can give."

Williams had defeated Rice for the leadership post at the end of the Legislature's 2012 session in March, but after winning 51 seats in last week's election, Republicans petitioned current House Speaker Robert Moore, D-Arkansas City, for a new vote on Williams' selection. When Williams gained only 48 votes in new balloting Thursday, Moore declared the spot vacant.

Prior to the vote, House Democratic Leader Greg Leding said if Williams couldn't be speaker, his party would back Carter.

"The Democratic Caucus would prefer Representative Carter over Representative Rice," Leding said. "In the election we ended up with a very evenly divided House, so you've got some moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats coming together because they want to make sure we govern from the middle for the next two years. We're just trying to put aside some of these harsh partisan differences and come together."

Gov. Mike Beebe said he was not involved in the discussions over the House speaker and has declined to say who he'd prefer to work with.

Carter, who had chaired the powerful Revenue and Taxation Committee despite being a Republican in a Democratic-controlled chamber, put his name up Thursday and gained one more vote than necessary to win — splitting the GOP vote and picking up support from Democrats.

The minority party even touted Carter's win as a victory and as a sign that they hold considerable clout in a chamber they don't control.

"This was a major coup for the party," Leding said. "I think it still demonstrates that Democrats still carry considerable power in the House and that both sides are going to have to come together to work because neither side can just run all over the other."

At a news conference after the vote, Moore described his successor as a key figure in the chamber and "man of wisdom, integrity and real leadership."

Under Arkansas law, Democratic, Republican and Green party votes could be necessary to pass significant legislation, particularly appropriations bills that need approval by three-fourths of the chamber. The GOP by itself is 24 votes short.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.