The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

January 8, 2013

Shannon elected 1st black Oklahoma House speaker

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma House elected T.W. Shannon Tuesday as the state's first black speaker, and the Lawton Republican vowed to reach across the party aisle and focus on making the state more prosperous and business friendly.

A member of the Chickasaw Nation and at age 34 the youngest-ever Oklahoma speaker of the House, Shannon downplayed the significance of his race after the House voted 69-28 along party lines to select him over Del City Democratic Rep. Scott Inman.

"This caucus chose me because they think I've got a skill set that can help lead the House and also lead the state, and I'm excited to do that," Shannon said after his historic election. "Hopefully I can bring a perspective that represents all people, because that's what I think people are looking for."

Shannon already had been elected by his Republican colleagues as the speaker-elect, and Tuesday's vote was more of a formality before the start of the legislative session on Feb. 4.

Shannon set a bipartisan tone in his speech to the House when he described Inman, who will lead the 29-member Democratic caucus, as "one of the most gifted and talented members in this building."

"While I know we will disagree on policy ... there's not going to be one time where I doubt that you and I share one goal and one goal only, and that's the mutual desire to see our kids live in a more prosperous Oklahoma," Shannon said. "I count you as a competitor and a friend, not as an enemy."

Inman described Shannon as a friend and said in a statement that he was "looking forward to our caucuses productively with one another as we cast off the fringe elements that have held our Legislature hostage in recent years."

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