A little-known conservative, who's 34 years old, African-American and just sworn in as Speaker of the House in Oklahoma is making lots of noise on the GOP radar.
Republican T.W. Shannon is the first African-American in that state to ever hold the position.
He's Republican. African-American and he's young-at a time when the GOP is worried about its future.
"Shannon speaks and acts like a mainstream modern conservative Republican -- and, to some extent, that's the point of his role in history," Patrick B. McGuigan writes in Watchdog.org. "Shannon's elevation to the top job in the 'people's house' is the latest chapter in a bipartisan story of progress leavened with injustice, leavened still more with hope and finally renewed in a fresh era of opportunity."
T.W. Shannon is a 6th generation Oklahoman and 3rd generation Lawtonian. Shannon is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation and a former Congressional staffer who worked for U.S. Representatives J.C. Watts and Tom Cole.
What got him elected as Speaker is his ability to relate to the rank-and-file members in the Oklahoma House. GOP leadership in the state believe he can also relate to the public on a national stage.
"We're trying to get Speaker Shannon on the surrogate list with the RNC to be speaking in other states and helping them with a more diverse Republican outreach in their states," Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell tells NewsOK.com.
Shannon himself has been laying the ground work-intentionally or not.
He caught some eyes with an October, 2012 editorial in the Oklahoma Gazette where he compared the national debt to the iceberg that sank the Titanic.
"Because of an accounting gimmick where governments pretend future liabilities don't exist and, therefore, don't account for them, most Americans don't know how big the problem really is. The amount typically reported, nearly $16 trillion, is actually only the surface of our debt," he wrote.
At his swearing in earlier this month, T.W. Shannon continued to wear his conservative credentials on his sleeve-perhaps a smoke signal to Washington as much as a message to Oklahomans.
"I think most people know this by now, but I'm a conservative. I believe in conservative policies that create jobs, protect families, and grow the economy," Shannon said. "But most people don't wake up each day and wonder what a bunch of politicians are doing to be conservative. If anything, they wake up and ask themselves how they can provide a sense of prosperity for their families and a sense of security."
Shannon has a tradition of breaking barriers. He was also the first African American from mostly white southern Oklahoma elected to the Legislature.
Married with two kids, Shannon knows he has his work cut out for him and lots of people are watching.
"We must be able to show how our policies lead to a more prosperous city, state and nation. Because ultimately, while I proudly describe myself as a conservative... it's not about labels," says Shannon. "It's about doing what's right to see the next generation prosper regardless of party philosophy. We can come together and find common ground."
If he can manage to do that in Oklahoma, GOP leadership will clearly take notice. And, like his constituents, want a piece of him.
Source: PR News Channel