GOP trying to remove Democrat House Speaker

Tuesday, May 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A Republican effort to unseat Democratic House Speaker Larry Adair failed by a single vote Monday, but the leader of the GOP's House caucus said it won't be long before the House is led by a Republican.

The 101-member House voted 50-50 on a motion by Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Del City, to remove Adair and declare the speaker's position vacant.

Fifty-one votes were required for passage. Former Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, was at a Pioneer Telephone board meeting in Kingfisher and did not vote.

He later issued a statement that said he would have voted against Adair's removal.

Two Democrats _ Reps. Ron Langmacher of Carnegie and Mike Ervin of Wewoka _ joined 48 Republicans in voting to replace Adair of Stilwell, who is in his first year as speaker.

``This was obviously a dramatic moment, in which we were only one vote shy of bringing momentous change to Oklahoma,'' said Minority Leader Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, the GOP's choice to become the new speaker.

``I firmly believe that it will not be long until Oklahoma has a Republican speaker,'' Morgan said.

Morgan said some Democrats promised to vote to unseat Adair but changed their mind. He declined to say who they were.

Republicans may have timed the vote to take advantage of Democratic unrest over a redistricting plan passed by a House committee earlier Monday.

Adair acknowledged that some Democrats are upset about the plan and said he had returned it to the committee to make some adjustments.

Adair, who has battled rumors that he would be replaced since he was named speaker in January, said he may have made mistakes but believes the legislative session ``has been the most successful session I've seen in the 19 years I've been here.''

``The rumors have been that some people may move to make a change. With 53 Democrats and 48 Republicans, that's always a possibility,'' he said.

Adair said he is not a vindictive person and will not retaliate for the ouster attempt, including removing the two Democrats who voted to remove him from their committee assignments.

``They're entitled to do what they want to do,'' Adair said. ``I'm going to be professional about my work here.''

Democrats and Republicans alike praised Adair as a fair leader and a man of integrity. But Republicans said they believe it is time for a change.

``It's about direction,'' said Rep. Doug Miller, R-Norman. ``This is not about a coalition of defectors. We are simply saying it's time for a different direction.''

Calvey said Adair is an honorable man who had made positive changes to make the governmental process more open. But Calvey said Adair had not gone far enough.

Calvey, who ended his debate with a two-minute prayer, said there are no Republican committee chairmen and said replacing Adair would bring ``greater unity'' to the House.

Rep. Don Ross, D-Tulsa, said the attempt to unseat Adair was led by ``a coalition junta'' interested in gaining power.

``Here we are fighting amongst ourselves to figure out who's going to be the king of the hill,'' said Rep. David Braddock, D-Altus. ``This destabilizes our state government.''

Majority Floor Leader Danny Hilliard, D-Sulphur, said Adair was a tireless worker who did not deserve being the target of an ouster effort.

``He's a good Christian man. He believes in treating people fairly,'' Hilliard said. ``We were fair, and perhaps that cost us. But the question is, who will be mad tomorrow.''

Rep. Jim Glover, D-Elgin, was the last to vote after remaining in his office during the debate. Ross hugged him after Glover cast his ``no'' vote.

Glover declined comment later, except to say: ``I made my point.''