- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma Senate Republicans on Wednesday selected a 10-year veteran senator and cotton farmer from Altus as their choice to lead the Senate next year.

In a closed-door, secret-ballot vote, the 39-member GOP caucus picked Sen. Mike Schulz as the Senate president pro tempore-designee in a three-man race with Sens. Ralph Shortey of Oklahoma City and Marty Quinn of Claremore. All three were vying to replace outgoing Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, who has held the position for six years but is term limited.

“I’m extremely humbled, extremely honored that this group of men and women would give me this honor to be their leader for the next couple of years,” said Schulz, 52, who has served in the Senate’s No. 2 position, majority floor leader, for four years. “We have a tremendous team assembled, and we’ll have a tremendous team after the November elections.

“I look forward to guiding, directing, leading, working with and getting inspiration from them.”

A second caucus vote will be held after the elections in November, and then a final vote will occur on the floor of the Senate in 2017, but those votes are typically a formality.

Schulz says he plans to work to elect Republicans to the state Senate to help ensure his leadership post.

“I plan on being available to all of the candidates in any race to do whatever I need to do to help them be successful in their campaigns,” Schulz said.

Assuming Schulz secures the final vote in 2017, he will serve as pro tempore for two years before he is term limited.

Besides leading the majority caucus, the pro tem negotiates on policy and budget matters with the House and governor, and oversees Senate staff and operations.

Senate Democrats, who are currently outnumbered 39-9, extended their congratulations to Schulz.

“It is a pleasure serving with Senator Schulz, and I know he is dedicated to serving the people of his district and this state,” Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him in the next Legislature.”

House Republicans are scheduled to elect their speaker-designee during a caucus meeting next week to replace outgoing Speaker Jeff Hickman, who also is term limited. That election has narrowed to a two-man race between Reps. Earl Sears of Bartlesville and Charles McCall of Atoka.


Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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