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Arkansas House to Vote Next Week on 2013 Speaker

2 min read

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas House members won’t vote on whether to elect a new speaker until next week, citing Friday a recount in a race that could deny Republicans an outright majority and, potentially, their chance to lead the chamber for the first time since Reconstruction.

Earlier this year, the House had elected Democratic Rep. Darrin Williams of Little Rock as the speaker designate. But Republicans won 51 seats in the state House in Tuesday’s election and 21 seats in the Senate, giving them control of the Legislature. The GOP wants to elect Rep. Terry Rice, of Waldron, as the next speaker.

House Speaker Robert Moore said he planned to call a House-wide meeting on Thursday to vote on the speaker once he received a request from at least 50 incoming representatives. Republicans were expected to submit petitions Friday afternoon calling for a new speaker election, and Moore said 25 Democrats had made a similar request.

Moore said waiting until next week for the election would allow for the recount in a northeast Arkansas House race to be resolved. Democrats won 48 seats Tuesday, while the Green Party has one.

“Whatever the scenario that spins out, the 100 member body needs to have a new say in who they want to be their leader,” said Moore, a term-limited Democrat who won’t serve in the Legislature next year.

Williams, who would be Arkansas’ first black speaker if his election is confirmed, said he was still preparing to be the speaker, but is holding off on appointing any committee chairmen.

“I’m not going to be an obstructionist,” Williams said. “In the spirit of bipartisanship, I’m not going to make any decisions that will be permanent or have to be overturned. We’re going to let this process work.”

House Republican leaders said they agreed with waiting until next week. Rice, who lost to Williams in the speaker’s race this year, said he believed it would be possible for both parties to work together in the sharply divided chamber.

“I feel like working together, we can accomplish a lot of good things,” Rice said. “The people who voted 51, 48 and one, if that holds, tells me they want us to work together, and that will be my goal.”

It’s unclear what would happen if Democrats prevail in the recount and Republicans don’t have an outright majority. House rules require a speaker designate to receive a majority vote.

Republicans in the state Senate have already transitioned into their new role as the majority after winning 21 of the 35 seats in that chamber. The Senate elected Republican Sen. Michael Lamoureux as its next president Thursday, and the GOP secured a majority on most of the Senate’s top committees.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.) 

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