Stuttgart Democrat Elected House Speaker for 2007 Session

JANUARY 9, 2006 - Posted at 3:29 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Representative Benny Petrus of Stuttgart was elected today as the Arkansas House of Representatives Speaker for the 2007 session.

Petrus, a Democrat, won in a 58-to-42 secret ballot vote.  He beat a fellow Democrat, Representative Will Bond of Jacksonville.

In a seven-minute address to representatives before voting, Petrus pledged to avoid any personal agendas and to be inclusive.  He told House members, "You don't have to agree with me to be heard."

Both Petrus and Bond acknowledged an unusually competitive campaign for the position, caused by the scheduling of the speaker's caucus.

In past years, the speaker has been chosen in the preceding session but legislation passed three years ago moved the process to later.

The 49-year-old Petrus is a car dealer.  Bond is 35 years old and is a lawyer.  Both have been in the House since 2003.

Ninety-three members of the House attended today's caucus, and 22 members voted by absentee ballot.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)