It is clear now that two Republican House members are running for the Speaker's chair – Rep. Terry Rice and Rep. Davy Carter. Republicans plan to caucus to discuss the election tomorrow morning with the election at noon in the House chamber.
There is also the possibility that both camps, which are in discussions tonight, could find an 11th-hour compromise that settles on one Republican choice.
The late entry of Carter within only the last few days has ruffled the feathers of many Republican House member loyal to Rice who feel that they gave him their word to vote for him as Speaker.
I understand their concerns, but there are a couple of points to consider and several false narratives that I feel should be addressed.
First, Carter is a solid conservative. Those characterizing him as some sort of moderate or traitor are either misinformed or are choosing not to tell the full story. Carter has the battle scars from the 2011 session to prove it. As chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, Carter fought hard to get as many tax cuts as possible passed. He was the key player in pushing back against the Senate and Gov. Beebe for more tax cuts that they wanted.
If my word is not enough, watch the video below where Carter stands up to the Democratic House leadership from the well of the House as they tried to kill the capital gains tax cut sponsored by Rep. Ed Garner. This bill made it out of the House that day before dying in the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.
This is not to diminish the contributions from Rice, particularly his assistance to Republican candidates during the 2012 election giving over $50,000 to candidates. But honestly, he did not play a key leadership role during the 2011 session — certainly not to the degree Carter did.
The second point is that Carter's Republican challenge is not something extraordinary. In almost every previous Arkansas House Speaker election, two members of the majority party ran against each other with an appeal for votes from both the majority and minority. Although I agree that the Speaker's office should be held by the majority party, the Speaker represents the whole House, not just one party. It is fitting and proper for all 100 members to have a voice in the Speaker's selection.
Several Republican members I have spoken with are honestly struggling between a desire to vote for Carter and a feeling of obligation to stick with Rice. That is a decision each member will have to make to do what they believe is the best decision for their district and for the state of Arkansas.
Regardless of what happens tonight or tomorrow, both Carter and Rice are good and honorable men who want to help advance our state. Republicans should realize that they are fortunate to be in a position where such two fine conservative candidates are seeking the position with one of them likely to win.