by Karl Kurtz
In follow-up to Meagan's Friday links to newspaper stories about new legislative leaders, here are some more leadership selections for 2011 involving interesting story lines like defeats of incumbent leaders or historical firsts:
- Long-time West Virginia Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin became acting governor last week after Gov. Joe Manchin was sworn in as a member of the U.S. Senate. Under the West Virginia Constitution, acting Gov. Tomblin continues to serve as Senate president, although he has said that he will not participate in Senate affairs, leaving the Senate to be run by President Pro Tem Joseph Minard. There is considerable disagreement among legislators and legal scholars as to whether Tomblin will serve as governor until the next general election in 2012 or whether a special election will be called before then.
- In Nevada, Sen. Mike McGinness was chosen as the Republican leader of the Senate over Sen. Bill Raggio, who had held that position for 30 years. Republican caucus members were critical of Raggio for his support of tax increases in 2009 and his endorsement of Democrat Harry Reid in his bid for reelection to the United States Senate over the Republican nominee, Sharron Angle.
- The Utah House selected it first woman speaker, Becky Lockhart, who narrowly defeated the incumbent speaker, Dave Clark. Clark had served as speaker for two years and was chair of NCSL's standing committees in 2007-08. In a curious sidelight, Rep. Lockhart has volunteered in the past as a tour guide in the state capitol.
- Minnesota Senate Republicans have chosen Sen. Amy Koch to be the Senate's first woman majority leader, the top post in that chamber. Another woman senator, Michelle Fishbach, will serve as Senate president.
- Another "first woman" to serve in a state's top leadership position is Tennessee Republican Rep. Beth Harwell who has been selected by her caucus to serve as speaker. The incumbent Republican Speaker Kent Williams was elected to that post two years ago by Democrats in a chamber with a one vote margin in favor of the Republicans. The Republican caucus subsequently stripped him of his party credentials. Williams was reelected to the House this year as an independent but chose not to run for speaker.
See NCSL's Unofficial State Legislative Leaders for the 2011 Session for a more complete list of leaders that have been named so far.