Rep. Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) is the new Speaker-designate of the Arkansas House, elected with 57 votes.
Shepherd got 21 votes, Love got 15, and Hammer got 5. See below for coverage of today’s vote. See this post for comments from Gillam and reactions and analysis to today’s votes.
The Arkansas House of Representatives has convened this afternoon to vote on a new Speaker. Three Republicans are running: Rep. Kim Hammer, Rep. Jeremy Gillam and Rep. Matthew Shepherd. One Democrat, Rep. Fred Love, has thrown his hat in the ring.
This vote for Speaker-designate is largely symbolic, as another vote will be taken for Speaker once the new membership convenes next year. Last year, Rep. Darren Williams was elected Speaker-designate but when Republicans swept into the majority, Davy Carter was elected Speaker. And as the Carter example shows, even if control of the House doesn’t change parties, there is no telling what will happen next January. Rep. Terry Rice was thought to be the Republican choice only to have Carter take the speakership with Democratic support. Assuming that the Republicans hold the House, the winner today will likely have a leg up come January, but that’s no guarantee.
Gillam is generally thought to be the favorite but there is all manner of maneuvering going on on the House floor right now, so who knows. It will be interesting to see whether Democrats vote as a block for Love or try to lend their support to a preferred Republican candidate. And who will the anti-private-option diehards vote for? Hammer would seem to be the natural choice but he was one of the decisive votes helping to get the private option over the supermajority hump.
One more note on the Democrats: many believe that if the Democrats manage to gain control of the House, Rep. Tommy Wren will run next year.
UPDATES: Gillam and Love were first up to give their boilerplate speeches. Lots of promises to build consensus and work with both parties. Lots of family. Lots of God (Love said the D by his name was not just for Democrat but for disciple of Christ). Shepherd and Hammer are up next.
Shepherd praised former House Speaker Robert Moore, as well as Carter, for knowing when to “stand up for the House” and ensure a “co-equal voice.” He said the Speaker needed to be “independent and stick to their beliefs” and cited his push this session for making prosecuting attorneys non-partisan. He also trumpeted his work on the Big River Steel superproject as chairman of the agriculture committee. Also, God and family.
Hammer gave a folksy life story and said, “some may say I’ve never figured out what I wanted to do or that I’ve lived a messed-up life or that I have trouble focusing on one thing” but “I would bring 55 years of life experience that is broad and diverse.” Thankfully, Hammer acknowledged that he asks far too many questions during committee meetings, but made no promises to discontinue the practice. Oh, and he’s only running for Speaker because God and his wife want him too, natch.