Speaker’s Race Could Bring Some Wheeling and Dealing

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 51 views 

Michael Wickline takes a look today at the upcoming race for the next Speaker of the House in an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.  It is quite a unique situation with Democrats still holding a narrow majority, but a distant possibility of the Republicans taking the House in the 2012 elections. The Speaker Designate is elected at the end of the fiscal session – probably in March – however the Speaker is officially elected on the first day of the new session in 2013.  Usually this is a rubber stamp confirmation of the Speaker Designate, but then the House has never flipped parties during an election before so anything is fair game.

Many times in previous years, only two Democrats competed for the Speaker’s chair with the minority party able to sway their support to one of the two candidates. But this year, the candidates are a Republican – Rep. Terry Rice from Waldron – and a Democrat – Rep. Darrin Williams from Little Rock.  It will be interesting to see how this one shakes out.  It could go straight party lines with Democrats electing Williams and then if/when the Republicans take the majority, they could elect a Republican – either Rice or someone else.

One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes as both candidates compete for the office.  For example, consider Rep. James Ratliff (D-Imboden) who will face Republican Ronald Cavenaugh this year for re-election. Ratliff tells the local paper – The Times Dispatch – that if he is re-elected, he will be the chair of the important House Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee.

Now this is interesting as the new Speaker will be the one making this decision.  Unless Ratliff has some sort of deal made with one or both of the incoming candidates, there is no way to be certain of this.  So I asked Ratliff if he had a deal in the works. He tells me he is just “being hopeful.”

Indeed. This will be fun to watch.