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Speaker of the House

Two Florida legislators have just claimed victory in their quests for the Legislature's most powerful offices. Congratulations are clearly in order to Rep. Peter Wallace, D-St. Petersburg, who has the pledges of his fellow House Democrats to elect him speaker in November 1994. Pledges still mean something in the House, and his party has a comfortable 73-47 majority, so Wallace's speakership seems assured. As for Sen. Pat Thomas, D-Quincy, who expects to become Senate president in 1992, it might be more appropriate to wish him "good luck." Democrats have only tenuous control of the Senate, 23 to 17, and everybody will have to run in redesigned districts next year. Wallace's selection, meanwhile, is a tribute to his reputation for hard work, thoughtfulness and integrity, and to the voters of his district. It also reflects credit on the House for having arrived, whether by coincidence or by consensus, at a bloodless way of selecting its speakers. Wallace's only prospective opponent, Appropriations Chairman Ron Saunders, D-Key West, dropped out, perhaps to take a later turn. Neither was forced into the uncomfortable _ and deplorable _ old practice of promising committee chairmanships for votes. Of course, the fact that Wallace is chairman of the committee that will draw everyone's election boundaries next year may have had something to do with it.

Pinellas County has never had a House speaker, which has less to do with the stature of its past legislators than with the fact that they were usually members of the minority party. For the same reason, no one from Pinellas has presided over the Senate since 1925. But the Republicans have to feel good about Wallace. If a Democrat from Pinellas can become speaker of the House, can a Republican Senate presidency be far behind?

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