Woodward, Okla. — OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The 72 Republicans in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday selected 40-year-old state Rep. Jeff Hickman of Fairview as the next speaker of the House, one of the most powerful positions in state government.
The Republican caucus met behind closed doors and cast secret ballots to pick Hickman over Rep. Mike Jackson of Enid, who currently serves as speaker pro tem, the No. 2 spot in the House.
"It's the most humbling experience of my life," Hickman said after the vote.
The full House of Representatives is scheduled to convene at 1:30 p.m. to formally elect Hickman to the post, but that vote is considered a formality since Republicans control the 101-member House.
Hickman said he considers Jackson a friend and that he expects a smooth transition to the speaker's post.
"Rep. Jackson and I didn't run against each other," Hickman said. "We both were running for speaker.
"He remains the speaker pro tem of the House, duly elected, and I've asked him to help me move forward. We've kind of had the state on hold waiting to make this decision, and we now need to get to work."
The speaker's position was vacated last week when Rep. T.W. Shannon stepped down to focus on his U.S. Senate race.
The position is a significant one, because the speaker joins the governor and the Senate president pro tem at the negotiating table for the $7 billion state budget and helps shape the political agenda for the state. The speaker, who earns an extra $18,000 over his base House salary, also oversees the House's roughly 115 employees and $16 million annual budget, and appoints chairmen and members of various committees.
Because the session already is underway, Hickman said he doesn't expect any major changes in terms of committee and staff assignments.
"We really don't have the luxury to make a lot of wholesale changes at this point," Hickman said.
First elected in 2004, Hickman is a farmer and rancher from Alfalfa County who previously served as press secretary at the University of Oklahoma for David Boren, a former U.S. senator and Oklahoma governor.