LITTLE ROCK The speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives says he expects to call a meeting next Thursday for another election for his successor in the role.
Speaker-designate Rep. Darrin Williams, a Little Rock Democrat, was elected earlier this year, but Republicans want to elect one of their own after gaining an apparent 51-seat majority in Tuesday's elections.
Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs said Friday that his party is collecting at least 50 signatures on a petition to present to current speaker Rep. Robert Moore that would start the process. After receiving the petition, Moore is tasked with setting an organizational meeting for the sole purpose of electing a new speaker.
Moore, D-Arkansas City, said he expects to receive the petition Friday and then set the meeting for Thursday. Doing so then will provide time for one outstanding issue that could affect the vote: A recount is under way in District 52. Democrat L.J. Bryant of Grubbs trailed Republican John Hutchison of Harrisburg after the original count, but if the numbers change, the Republicans could lose their 51-seat majority.
"That's a big question out there that has to be resolved," Moore said, noting the recount should be done by Thursday. "Both sides want to do it expeditiously."
As it stands now, there are 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Green party representative in the body.
Republican Rep. Terry Rice of Waldron is expected to run for speaker. Westerman said he didn't know of any others who would vie for the post.
Moore and Westerman spoke to reporters after the House met Friday to draw seniority for incoming members and select seats. Members then broke into caucuses to determine committee assignments.
Incoming Green Party Rep. Fred Smith of Crawfordsville automatically received the top seniority of the incoming legislators because he is a former member of the House.
The rest of the incoming members drew numbers to randomly determine their seniority.
Republican Douglas House of North Little Rock, elected in District 40, drew the lowest number, making him the most senior of the incoming members behind Smith.
The Associated Press contributed to this story