WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert, R.-Ill., is about to become the longest-serving House speaker in U.S. history "if I make it to June," he told newspaper The Hill.
The so-called accidental speaker elected Jan. 6, 1999, on June 1 will break the 1903-11 mark set by "Uncle" Joe Cannon, a tough conservative also from Illinois.
But the generally media-shy Hastert is not celebrating.
"The biggest challenge in a place where you're dealing with ... 230-some members in your conference is to get everybody involved," Hastert told The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.
"I made a decision a long time ago that I didn't want to be the principal of a high school and now I'm the principal of the Congress," Hastert said.
Unlike predecessor Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., Hastert leads from the rear, is a patient consensus builder and displays "respectful dominance," GOP colleagues told The Hill.
Hastert's toughest time during his 7 1/2-year speakership has been the past year as a series of controversies have rocked the GOP.