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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sansom steps aside as speaker




House Speaker Ray Sansom relinquished his leadership position Friday in an unprecedented retreat from power that was choreographed to instill calm but gave way to confusion.

Using an obscure House rule, the embattled speaker announced he would temporarily "recuse" himself from the authority of his office and install a little-known legislator from Ocala to take over as acting speaker.

But Sansom's move, made only reluctantly on the urgent advice of colleagues, failed to quell anxiety in a chamber that has seen its own standing damaged amid allegations that Sansom abused his office to help friends and himself.

Sansom, 46, denies doing so and insists he will be cleared.

It was not clear Friday how long new Speaker Larry Cretul, 61, is expected to remain in power and some members openly questioned whether Sansom's half-measure departure, designed to allow for his return, was even permissible. Talk around the Capitol was about whether Sansom should fully resign the speakership and allow Republicans to hold a new election to replace him.

"This is a mess," said Rep. Baxter Troutman, R-Winter Haven. "There's no page in the playbook that gives clear instructions on what to do and how to do it." (story here)

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:16pm]


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