The Oklahoma House of Representatives elected Tulsa Republican Chris Benge as the speaker of the house in a late-afternoon session at the State Capitol.
"It is quite an honor," Benge said to his fellow representatives from the podium on the House floor after the announcement. "Today we stand united and ready to move forward."
Last week, former Speaker Lance Cargill resigned his post after stories of failing to file personal income taxes submerged him in controversy. Speaker Pro Tem Gus Blackwell was in line to be the next speaker before controversy arose surrounding his tax filing.
It took the house two balloting measures to make Benge the new leader in the Oklahoma House of Representatives after the nominated Democrat withdrew his name. Benge was elected by proclamation.
The Tulsa native was first elected to the House in 1998 and will be term limited in 2010. Benge has risen in stature as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for the past four years.
Four House members announced their intentions to run the position: Susan Winchester, Dale DeWitt, John Wright and Benge, who was the last of the four to announce. The Republican caucus met behind closed doors early Monday morning for more than an hour. After the first balloting, no winner was declared and the caucus selected Benge after the second one. - Scott Cooper