OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The new, 72-member Oklahoma House Republican Caucus on Thursday confirmed Lawton Republican T.W. Shannon will become the first African-American speaker of the House in Oklahoma.
Shannon was elected House speaker-designate last year in a close race against Rep. Jeff Hickman of Dacoma, but Thursday’s caucus meeting was the first with the 13 Republican members elected this cycle. Shannon will replace outgoing House Speaker Kris Steele, who was term-limited.
“We’re looking forward to a great session where we continue our pro-growth, conservative policies that we’ve advanced for the last four years and continue to build upon the momentum that we have,” Shannon said.
Shannon didn’t elaborate on specific policy proposals and said those will be developed at a caucus retreat early next month in Medicine Park. But he hinted that the state’s infrastructure needs, including necessary repairs to the Capitol building, would be at the top of the list for discussion along with a plan to reduce the state’s income tax.
Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposal to reduce the state income tax was among her top priorities last legislative session, but an agreement got bogged down in the House in the waning days of the session when Republicans couldn’t reach a consensus on the details of the plan.
The 72 Republican members in the 101-member House of Representatives makes it the largest GOP majority in state history.
Shannon, 34, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, was first elected to the House in 2006 – two years after Republicans took control of the chamber. The public relations and human resources consultant was the first Republican elected to House District 62, which includes the west side of Lawton.
Also on Thursday, the caucus selected Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, as speaker pro tempore-elect and Rep. Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa, as caucus chairman.
Shannon will appoint the next floor leader and the chairs of various House committees in the next few weeks.