- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - At least three House Republicans confirmed Wednesday that they were working to line up support from their GOP colleagues to become the next leader of the House in case current Speaker T.W. Shannon steps down.

Reps. Jeff Hickman of Dacoma, Mike Jackson of Enid, and Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City all said they were interested in seeking the House’s top spot. Shannon announced Wednesday that he is running for the U.S. Senate.

“At this point, I don’t believe there has been any announcement that he is going to step down immediately,” said Jackson, a close Shannon ally and currently House speaker pro tem, the No. 2 leadership post in the House. “(But) every contingency has to be planned for just in case that does occur.”

In an email sent to House Republicans on Tuesday, Shannon said he has no immediate plans to step down, but that he planned to work with the caucus “to determine the appropriate timing and nature of the transition.”

The speaker appoints committee members and chairs, has the ability to hire and fire House staff, and negotiates with the Senate and governor’s office on the budget and other key policy issues.

Hickman said Wednesday that he’s had a “very positive response” from his GOP colleagues, but declined to say how many votes he had secured.

Republicans in the House currently enjoy a 72-29 advantage over Democrats, and the speaker-designate is selected in a closed-door caucus meeting through secret ballot. A formal vote for speaker is held before the full House, but Hickman downplayed any suggestion of a coalition speaker elected with the help of Democrats.

“That’s just not a reality,” Hickman said.

Still, Nelson said he welcomed votes from members in either party.

“All the Democratic caucus is welcome to vote for me for speaker, but I’ve spent my time so far visiting with my Republican colleagues,” Nelson said.

House Democratic Leader Rep. Scott Inman sidestepped a question Wednesday on whether his 29 members would be interested in supporting a coalition speaker.

“Whomever the Republican majority chooses for their speaker, we hope it’s somebody that actually has Oklahoma’s future and best interest at heart, and not future political gains,” said Inman, D-Del City.


Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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