OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Two days after discussing his alcoholism problem with his fellow senators, Senate President Pro Tem Cal Hobson resigned his leadership post Wednesday and was quickly replaced by Sen. Mike Morgan of Stillwater.
Hobson's resignation prevented what would have been an unprecedented ouster move by his Democratic colleagues, many of whom privately expressed concern for Hobson's health.
Mike Morgan was elected to the leadership position on a 25-19 Senate floor vote after being nominated by Hobson.
Morgan announced he was appointing Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, D-Ardmore, to replace him as the Senate's appropriations chairman.
The new Senate leader said his top priority will be completing the state budget for the next fiscal year. ``One of the first things we need to do is to complete an appropriations for our public schools,'' he said.
Hobson will remain in his Senate seat. ``I'm actually looking forward to being one of 48 members of the Oklahoma Senate, representing the people of District 16,'' he said.
Democrats voted in a caucus Monday to ask the 59-year-old Hobson to step down or face a formal move to replace him.
Hobson, D-Lexington, said following that meeting that there had been ``a very frank and honest conversation about my disease, which is alcoholism, and what we should do about it and what I should do about it.''
Hobson embraced Morgan after the vote to change leadership of the Democratic-controlled Senate.
``I am humbled by the awesome responsibility of this job and the challenges that lay ahead,'' Morgan said. ``I'm thankful to my Senate colleagues for their support and I know I can count on each and every one of them -- both Democrats and Republicans -- to put aside petty political differences in the coming weeks as we seek to move Oklahoma forward.''
The changeover took less than 30 minutes. Morgan got all 25 Democratic votes and Senate Minority Leader Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, got the votes of 19 Republicans who were present.
At a news conference, Morgan called Hobson ``the most dedicated, hardworking public servant I have ever known.''
He said political considerations surrounding such issues as lawsuit reform were not a significant factor in the Democrats' decision to seek Hobson's resignation.
Last week, the governor's tort reform plan died in the Senate when Democrats could not muster the 25 votes needed to send it to the House, where a rival plan is sponsored by House Speaker Todd Hiett.
Politics was ``very secondary to the human concerns for a man we love,'' Morgan said of the reasons behind the change in leadership.
Morgan apologized for dodging reporters' questions the last several days.
``Sometimes you have to keep things in the family and that's what we tried to do,'' he said.
Morgan, 50, is a former municipal judge in Stillwater and is a native of Tulsa.
Hobson issued a statement, saying he was proud of his accomplishments this session, including reaching an agreement on a bond program to make millions of dollars in capital improvements to higher education facilities across the state.
``I have devoted countless hours and nearly every ounce of my energy to seeing this bond issue through,'' he said. ``We still must vote on it in the Senate, but the heavy lifting is complete.''
The bond program has passed the House and will be one of the first items taken up in the Senate next week, Morgan said.
Gov. Brad Henry said he would be working with Morgan to ensure ``a smooth transition and a productive legislative session.''
``Senator Morgan is a good friend and a strong leader, and I know he will serve the Senate well in his new position,'' the governor said in a statement.
``I also look forward to working with Senator Hobson in his new role. He has been a great friend to me over the years and has been a tremendous public servant for the people of Oklahoma.''
Coffee said he wished Hobson well ``during this very difficult time for him and his family. He has been a formidable political adversary, yet we have remained personal friends and we have always had a good working relationship.''
Rep. Jari Askins, D-Duncan, House Democratic leader, said Hobson's leadership ``has been an inspiration for many public officials and I expect him to continue to be a strong advocate of Oklahoma working people.''
Hobson was elected to state Senate District 16 in 1990 and was a member of the state House from 1978 to 1990.
As a House member, he was a key player in a revolt that led to the ouster of former Speaker Jim Barker.
Hobson, as House appropriations chairman, was heavily involved in the fight to pass House Bill 1017, a landmark school reform and tax bill.
Recently, he was in the forefront of successful legislative battles to establish a state lottery, increase cigarette taxes and regulate Indian casinos.
Hobson had previously acknowledged having a problem with alcohol abuse and was in treatment twice in 2003 and 2004.