Andrew Rice will resign from Senate on January 15

Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, an Oklahoma City Democrat, announced today (Tuesday, October 18) he was resigning effective Jan. 15, 2012.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, Rice said he had submitted letters to Secretary of the Senate Paul Ziriax, President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, and Governor Mary Fallin.

Rice said, “I am supporting my wife in her pursuit of a career opportunity outside of the state of Oklahoma. She has made immense sacrifices for me in her support of my political career and public service, and I am honored to be able to reciprocate that for her now. Therefore, I will be unable to serve the remainder of my term, which ends in November 2014.

“By law, Gov. Fallin will call a special election for Senate District 46 within 30 days of my effective date of resignation. The Senate Democratic Caucus will hold an internal election in the coming months to choose a new Senate Democratic Leader to succeed me when I leave the Senate.

“It has been an immense honor and privilege to serve the people of Senate District 46. I am grateful I have had the opportunity to be their voice at the State Capitol. I will miss the many friendships that I have formed with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the senate staff. I will also greatly miss the many relationships I have formed with the citizens of this great state. We are sad that this change will take us away from Oklahoma, but this is the best decision for our family at this time.

“Although I’ve run unsuccessfully for higher office, and have had a great deal of ambition politically, I have always approached my public service as a temporary and limited part of my career. I have been honored to fill that role for a short time, and I am confident that District 46 will be well served with the new ideas and passion that will come from electing a new Senator.

“I look forward to what lies ahead for me in my career now that I am leaving elected office. Whatever it may be, I will continue to pursue ways to try and improve the common good, and be a voice for the underdog.”

Sen. Bingman, a Sapulpa Republican, responded to Rice’s announcement within minutes. He commented, “Though we may not have always seen eye-to-eye on every issue, I have nothing but respect for Senator Rice and his service to the state of Oklahoma. He is compassionate, intellectually honest, and relentless in the defense of his constituents. I could not have asked for a better Senate colleague and Minority Leader counterpart.

“While saddened to learn of Senator Rice’s resignation, I am excited for him and his family as they pursue new opportunities. I’m honored to count Andrew and his wife, Apple, as friends — surely they will be missed by many Oklahomans. I wish their family the very best as they embark on the next chapter in their lives.”

Sen. David Holt, a Republican from northwest Oklahoma City, will inherit parts of the current District 46 in his newly configured District 30.

Today, Holt commented on his colleague’s departure in comments to CapitolBeatOK. He said:

“Senator Rice and I weren’t always on the same side of arguments, but I always respected his intelligence, work ethic, and spirit of service. I am appreciative for his years of public service and wish he and his family all the best in their next adventure.

“The Senator who represents downtown Oklahoma City carries a special burden. I know the voters of that district, some of whom I will represent after redistricting takes effect in 2012, will accept their upcoming responsibility with wisdom and diligence.”

Election Board Chairman Ziriax (who is also secretary of the Senate) told CapitolBeatOK that redistricting provisions and the timing of the resignation leave it unclear if the special election should be held in the current District 46, or within the new set lines that take the district into south Oklahoma City. Ziriax said that question would be determined within the next few days.

In any case, the senator elected in the special will represent the new district beginning in 2013. The newly configured district’s first general election will be held in 2014.

Today, Rice told supporters, on his website, that he intended to support fellow Democrat state Rep. Al McAffrey in the special election.

Concerning the special election, Republican state Chairman Matt Pinnell told CapitolBeatOK, “”We will field a strong, qualified conservative candidate with the goal of picking up another key Senate seat.”