State Representative Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) announced his bid to serve as the next Speaker of the Texas House after a rumored invitation-only meeting among a select group of lawmakers was held in Austin Sunday.
Phelan is joining three other Republican lawmakers seeking the House’s top spot, including Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), Geannie Morrison (R-Victoria), and Chris Paddie (R-Marshall). Another candidate, Rep John Cyrier (R-Lockhart) also filed, but shortly withdrew from the running and endorsed Morrison for the spot.
Three Democrats have also filed for the Speakership, including Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), and Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio).
Phelan’s announcement comes after concerns were raised that a faction of Republican lawmakers labeled “Team Bonnen” was holding an invitation-only meeting to select the next speaker outside the open caucus process as required by the Republican Party Platform.
The private meeting even drew a stern warning beforehand from the Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West, who issued a statement saying; “Discussions about the next Speaker should be inclusive. Any candidate who emerges from a guarded smoke-filled room will end in embarrassment.”
State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) has been critical of any plan to circumvent the Republican Caucus by-laws and Party Platform regarding the selection of a Speaker, which requires the caucus to meet in December and select a Speaker candidate by a majority vote of the entire caucus.
Biedermann has also described how Republicans have broken into two main groups – those who generally support adhering to the open caucus process, dubbed “Team Texas”, and those who participated in the Sunday meeting, dubbed “Team Bonnen.”
Team Bonnen is said to be organized primarily by lieutenants of out-going Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and some center-right lawmakers.
Additionally, on Monday, Biedermann announced on Facebook that he attended the Sunday meeting of lawmakers.
“Yesterday, I attended the meeting of the center-right group of the House Republican Caucus as they chose a Speaker candidate. I thought the meeting was necessary to choose a candidate of their liking and I felt the meeting was run well with good conversation” Biedermann wrote
Biedermann continued further stating; “My hope is that the process will continue with vetting all the candidates in an open Caucus meeting as soon as possible, culminating with voting for a Speaker nominee at our December meeting. It is important to hear from each candidate in an open forum and hear their plan for the House next session.”
Biedermann emphasized later in a phone interview with Lone Star Voice that regardless of who the group selected as their candidate for the Speakership, the caucus process should continue without interruption and should be an open and fair process.
Phelan ultimately emerged from the Sunday meeting with the group’ support and released a statement regarding his candidacy for the Speakership early Monday touting his support from Republicans while also making a pitch to gain the support of House Democrats.
“While I have tremendous support from my Republican colleagues, the Texas House belongs to the people of Texas, and I look forward to sharing my vision and earning the support of every member of the Texas House”, Phelan’s statement read in part.
A majority of 150 House members (76) are needed to select the Speaker. With Republicans controlling the chamber with 83 votes, Tuesday’s General Election is set to determine which Party controls the Texas House for the next two years, and most importantly, during the upcoming redistricting process.
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