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Carter expected to ascend to House Speaker’s post

On Thursday, the House membership of the upcoming 89th General Assembly will make history by selecting its next Speaker-designate.
On Thursday (Nov. 15), the House membership of the upcoming 89th General Assembly will make history by selecting its next Speaker-designate.

Roby Brock's Talk Business reports that current Speaker-designate Rep. Darrin Williams (D-Little Rock), who would have been the first African-American to hold the post, is expected to be voted out of the position as Republicans unofficially won control of the House with 51 seats in the 100-member body.

At noon, the House will convene for an “affirmation vote” on Williams’ Speakership and it is expected that a majority will result in his recall.

That will set in motion a series of events to open nominations up for a new House Speaker.

As first reported by Talk Business two days ago, Republicans have been roiled this week by the last-minute entry of Rep. Davy Carter (R-Cabot) as a choice for House Speaker over presumptive nominee Rep. Terry Rice (R-Waldron).

Carter, a third-term Republican representative, has formed a coalition of support among younger GOP members and Democrats, who control 48 seats.

For two days, the Carter coalition and Rice supporters have been in discussions with each other and House members to broker a deal that might result in the exit of one of the two Republicans from the race.

Talk Business has learned that Carter appears to have a majority of the votes and it is uncertain if Rice will go forward with his nomination or step aside.

Regardless, the election of either Republican will also be history-making for the modern political era as a Republican has never held the House Speaker’s seat under 138 years of Democratic control.

House Republicans and Democrats are caucusing separately Thursday morning to form their strategies for the day.

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs), who is expected to serve as House Majority Leader, implored in an email on Wednesday (Wednesday, Nov. 14) for unity.

“As all of you are aware, the speaker-elect election has taken a turn and it is my goal to speak to each of you individually about that today,” Westerman said.

“As you prepare to attend the caucus meeting tomorrow and decide how you will vote in the Speaker-elect election, I ask you to prayerfully consider the choices you have before you and search your hearts and minds to decide what the best choice is for Arkansas, our party, and our ability to function in a capacity that we can effectively pass good legislation and block bad legislation. The purpose of the General Assembly is to make law. At the end of the day our success will not be measured on how well we were structured, how good everyone felt about everyone else, how well we got along with each other or the other party, who served as speaker, or who chaired a committee. The only assessment that will matter in the end is did we make, change, or block laws that made Arkansas better. As Republicans, we will be judged on our ability to make the law more in line with Republican ideals and principles. This is important, and I trust and pray that all of us involved will make our first votes as a Republican majority the right votes. We simply cannot afford to fail at this!” Westerman added.

Democratic sources tell Talk Business that a huge majority — if not all — of their votes are committed to either retaining Williams as Speaker or supporting Carter.

Aspects of any deal-making are not being discussed.

At noon, House proceedings will occur. Talk Business will be live with updates on the blog. Stay tuned.
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