Back in the saddle again: Former OK House Speaker Benge named Fallin’s Secretary of State
Published: October 24th, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY – After a three-year break, former Speaker of the House Chris Benge is back in the saddle, again.
The government saddle, that is. Benge will become Oklahoma secretary of state on Nov. 8.
He’ll provide policy advice for the state’s chief executive, direct the daily routine of an office important to thousands of state businesses, and interact regularly with former colleagues in the Legislature – no doubt trying to herd them into Gov. Mary Fallin’s corral.
Fallin made the announcement Wednesday. She said Benge will help her continue implementing “pro-growth, fiscally responsible and conservative policies to move this state forward.”
In a statement to CapitolBeatOK, Benge said, “I look forward to working with the governor and the Legislature to maintain a strong focus on promoting economic growth and opportunities for our citizens.”
Benge served 12 years in the state House, representing Tulsa and areas south of the city from 1998-2010. He will replace Larry Parman, who has served in posts during the Fallin administration. Fallin named Parman director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, and Cabinet secretary for that portfolio, also beginning Nov. 8.
Benge became leader of the state House in January 2008 after his predecessor, Lance Cargill of Harrah (the first GOP House Speaker in state history) faced a stream of “pay-to-play” accusations and resigned his position.
Benge’s tenure atop state leadership overlapped with the final years of Democratic Gov. Brad Henry and that of Senate President Pro Temp Glenn Coffee, the first Republican in that position.
When his time in the Senate ended, Coffee became Fallin’s first secretary of state. He left that job earlier this year to run an Oklahoma City law firm, but remains a close advisor to Fallin on issues touching Indian country.
In the top job for the House, Benge was an advocate of compressed natural gas (CNG) as an automobile fuel, insurance reform and an aggressive critic of the Affordable Care Act after its passage.
Benge was chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget committee from December 2004 to February 2008, before assuming the speaker’s post.
Since leaving government, he has been an advisor to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Jr., and, since August 2011, senior vice president for the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce.
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