Tulsan Chris Benge elected speaker

Republican House members this morning elected Chris Benge as speaker-elect, by a narrow margin GOP sources say.  His election went to a second ballot in which he faced Dale DeWitt, the sources report, with Susan Winchester apparently running third. Prior to the Caucus meeting, it had been speculated that Winchester and Benge were close in votes.

Representative Chris Benge is a native Tulsan. He was born and raised in southwest Tulsa and currently resides in the community of Berryhill with his wife Allison and their two children, Garrett, age 13 and Hayden, age 11.  He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Business and is an active member of the Southwest Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, Sand Springs Rotary Club and a member of the Board of Directors of Goodwill Industries. 

Benge is also a member of the Grand River Dam Authority Task Force and the American Legislative Exchange Council.  The family attends View Acres Baptist Church.
The Caucus retained Speaker Pro Tem Gus Blackwell in that position even though he withdrew as a candidate for speaker when it was revealed he’d been late in paying property taxes in Texas County. An insider said there was some concern about Blackwell continuing as the No. 2 GOP leader, but most members believe his late property tax problem did not "rise to the same level" as concern about resigned Speaker Lance Cargill’s failure to file personal income tax returns as well as his failure to pay business taxes in timely fashion. The insider said Blackwell’s name never came up during today’s Caucus meeting.

Democrat Leader Danny Morgan and other House Democratic Leaders will hold a media availability today, 20 minutes after the conclusion of Regular House Session, Morgan’s spokesman said. Morgan and other leaders of the House Democratic Caucus will discuss the election of a new speaker of the House.

About the Author:
Mike McCarville has covered Oklahoma politics and government since he became State Capitol Correspondent for The Tulsa Tribune in 1966. Since, he has been a governor’s press secretary, investigative reporter, television station news executive, radio station program director and talk show host, and political consultant. In 1980, he founded The McCarville Report and it is the nation’s longest-running state political publication. In its online version, it has been called "The best political blog" by Dr. Keith Gaddie, pollster and pundit and "Oklahoma’s venerable McCarville Report" by The Arkansas Times.  McCarville, also a real estate investor and commentator for the National Rifle Association on NRANews.com and Sirius Satellite Radio, is a regular contributor to Tulsa Today.