Talk Business editor Roby Brock broke the news earlier today that the House Speaker's election just got a new candidate. Although unconfirmed officially, multiple sources indicate that Republican Rep. Davy Carter of Cabot, who chaired the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, is talking about a challenge.
Here is the rumor that is floating around Republican circles – none of which has become confirmed directly by any of the Speaker candidates but is being confirmed by multiple sources speaking on condition of anonymity.
The new Speaker's election is scheduled to take place (or not take place) on Thursday. What will happen first is a call for a new election for Speaker Designate in the form of a motion declaring that it is apparent Darrin Williams does not have the support from the majority of the House to become the Speaker for the 2013 general session. The vote for the motion to call for a new Speaker Designate election will require 51 votes from the incoming House members.
If this passes, then it will get interesting as it will require a majority of 51 votes – not a plurality – to elect a new Speaker.
What is taking place right now is an apparent split within the Republican House caucus between a group rallying around sticking with Rep. Terry Rice – the “Deacons” – and a separate group of mostly younger members pushing Rep. Carter – the “Youth Group.”
Part of the disagreement has to do with committee chairmanship appointments – one of the biggest powers of the Speaker.
For example, there is discussion that Rice may appoint Rep. Les Carnine to chair the Joint Budget Committee while the Youth Group would like to see Rep. Duncan Baird in that role. Basically, there is concern that Rice will stick with his group of Deacons leaving the Youth Group out in the cold. UPDATE – I have been informed that the House Joint Budget Co-chair is actually elected by the House membership of the committee. Guess what? As of Friday, the Democrats won control of this committee with 14 Democrats to 10 Republicans. That means the Democrats will likely elect a Democrat as the chair. Sen. Larry Teague – also a Democrat – is the incoming co-chair in the Senate.
The Deacons are quite upset over the apparent coup from the Youth Group at what they believed was already an agreed to vote for Rice. The Deacons point out that Rice contributed heavily – around $50k – to Republican House candidate campaigns, while Carter did little party building.
Although that might not matter as Carter could very well have the numbers on his side if he sticks to his guns. Sources put the number of Republicans supporting Carter at around 20 while he also has an equal if not larger group of Democrats supporting him.
That means Thursday's vote could go a number of ways.
One scenario would be that Carter, Rice, and current Speaker Designate Democrat Rep. Darrin Williams would all run. This would likely result in no one achieving 51 votes in the initial vote and force a runoff between the top two vote-getters. If Carter can get into a runoff against Williams or even possibly against Rice, he would likely be the favorite for the Speaker's chair.
The biggest caveat here is that this counts on Carter sticking to his guns in running against Rice, which is definitely not certain. In fact, it is likely some sort of compromise could be worked out behind the scenes before the election on Thursday.
One top Republican House source downplayed the rumors completely telling me that “the rumors of the demise of the Republican caucus are greatly exaggerated” and that most of the rumors are coming from the Democratic membership trying to stir up division.
Either way – it is certainly getting interesting. More as it develops.