Monday, August 10, 2009

Ken Miller Pulls out of Speaker Race

State Rep. Ken Miller (R, Edmond), chairman of the Appropriations and Budget Committee, has pulled out of the race for Speaker-designate (the precursor to becoming Speaker for the next term). The only candidate now is State Rep. Kris Steele (R, Shawnee), the current Speaker Pro-Tempore.

Miller made his announcement first in an email to the Republican caucus, where he said:
"After much thought and positive conversations with Kris over the weekend, I have decided to not seek the position of speaker-designate and support Kris in his efforts to become the next Speaker of the House. Later today, he and I will be releasing a joint statement on our shared goal of moving our state and caucus forward. I am honored to have been a part of the conversation concerning future House leadership and appreciative of the encouragement I received. I look forward to working closely with Kris and each of you to advance our state and majority."
This afternoon, Steele and Miller released the following statement:

Miller Endorses Steele for House Speaker

OKLAHOMA CITY (August 10, 2009)—House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Ken Miller announced today his support for Representative Kris Steele to be Oklahoma ’s next Speaker of the House.

"After having positive and substantive discussions over the weekend, I am pleased to announce my support of Representative Steele in his efforts to become the next Speaker of the House,” said Miller, R-Edmond.

“While I am honored to have been a part of the conversation concerning future House leadership, I do not plan to seek the position of speaker-designate in the fall and look forward to working closely with Rep. Steele to move our state forward," he said.

With no other House Republicans expressing interest in the position, Steele is likely to become the next Speaker of the House.

“Representative Ken Miller is a valuable member and a talented legislator. I’m honored and pleased to have his support and look forward to working together with him to grow our economy and tackle the important issues facing our state,” said Steele, who is currently the speaker pro-tempore of the House.

“The dialogue that Representative Miller and I have had will move the Republican caucus forward more unified than ever and that’s a tribute to his leadership,” said Steele, R-Shawnee.

Speaker Chris Benge, who is term limited and cannot seek re-election, praised Steele and Miller as strong leaders and said House Republicans will be in capable hands.

“This has been a very positive process and it demonstrates that Republicans have the ability to govern while smoothly transitioning leadership,” said Benge, R-Tulsa.

“I look forward to working with both of these leaders of our caucus as we enter next session and continue the pro-growth policies that have improved Oklahoma so much over the past few years.”

Though Benge remains Speaker of the House through November of 2010, Republicans will formally vote on Benge’s replacement this October. The winner will receive the title of “Speaker-Designate” and stand before the entire House for election as Speaker in November of 2010.

Miller's move was a little unexpected, even though most insiders have said for some time that Miller would not be able to beat Steele. This came after Miller waged a somewhat negative campaign in the caucus.

Miller was the establishment candidate, and this defeat strikes a blow at the grip political consultants and other party insiders have had on the State House for several years, particularly under the tenure of Speaker Lance Cargill and Speaker Chris Benge.

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