OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The chairman of a powerful legislative committee hopes to jump-start his candidacy for Oklahoma House speaker by laying out a vision for the chamber’s top job and challenging the apparent front-runner to do the same.

Rep. Ken Miller, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, sent a six-page letter to members of his Republican caucus in mid-July that proposes policy initiatives and outlines the speaker’s responsibilities to encourage “a deeper discussion on our future leadership.”

“It should be less about strategy and political maneuvering and more about issues,” said Miller, R-Edmond.

Miller and House Speaker Pro Tem Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, are campaigning to be the next House speaker. Current Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, must step down at the end of 2010 due to term limits.

House Republicans are scheduled to meet Oct. 19 to designate their choice for the next speaker. GOP insiders say privately that with commitments from about two-thirds of the House’s 61 Republicans, Steele appears to have the speaker’s job locked up.

But Miller, who teaches economics at Oklahoma Christian University, is hardly ready to concede. In his letter to House Republicans, he challenged Steele to map out his own vision for the speaker’s job and the policy initiatives he would support if elected.

Steele, a Methodist minister who holds the House’s second-ranking position, said he has discussed his ideas with other GOP House members and indicated there is no need to put them down on paper.

“I think our members probably know who I am and know what my vision for Oklahoma is,” Steele said.

The discourse has helped to make public what has been a closely guarded decision made in private caucus meetings.

“I don’t feel that the discussion has to be done in the dark of night,” Miller said.

The House speaker sets the political and policy agenda for the majority party.

“There is no office that has a greater impact on policy and the future of the state other than the governor’s office,” said Miller, who is serving his third two-year term in the House.

Miller’s letter describes how the House speaker serves as a caucus leader, policy coordinator, negotiator and political fundraiser and stresses his work as the House’s chief budget writer.

“A speaker is best prepared when equipped with a sound understanding of the budgeting process and negotiating experience,” the letter states.

Steele, serving his fifth term, said he is “very aware of how the budget process works” and stressed his legislative experience over the years, including service on the House redistricting committee in 2001.

The redrawing of legislative and congressional districts will be a major issue for the next speaker following the 2010 census, he said.

Miller lists economic growth and education reform as his top policy goals. He also lists improving health care as a top priority and credited Steele for his work to reduce the number of uninsured Oklahomans.

This year, Steele helped form a coalition with Democratic Gov. Brad Henry to enhance Henry’s Insure Oklahoma plan, originally enacted in 2004 to help small businesses provide health care coverage for their low- and middle-income employees and reduce the state’s estimated 619,000 uninsured residents.

Republicans have held majority status in the 101-member House since 2004, when they took control of the chamber from Democrats for the first time in 80 years. There are 40 Democrats in the House.

In May, Democrats chose Rep. Scott Inman of Del City as their next leader. He will succeed House Democratic Leader Danny Morgan of Prague when Morgan’s two-year leadership term expires next year.

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