Looks like (maybe) we have a Speaker

I give you Rep. Dade Phelan. May he not spontaneously combust in spectacular and self-inflicted fashion like a drummer for Spinal Tap the last Speaker.

Rep. Dade Phelan

State Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, announced Wednesday he has the votes needed to become the next speaker of the Texas House and soon after released a bipartisan list of 83 members supporting his candidacy. That number, should it hold, is more than enough votes for Phelan to win the gavel when the Legislature convenes in January.

But Phelan’s main competitor for the speakership, state Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, indicated in a statement he was not backing down from the race and said the GOP caucus should meet per its bylaws to “vote to back a candidate … as soon as possible.”

The news comes hours after the GOP maintained its majority over the lower chamber, fending off a well-funded challenge from Democrats who had hoped to flip the House for the first time in nearly two decades.

“The race is over,” Phelan said at a noon press conference at the Texas Capitol, saying he has a “supermajority of the Republican caucus” and a “broad coalition of support” from Democrats. A candidate needs a majority of the 150-member chamber in order to win the gavel and preside over the House.

As election results came in Tuesday, the eight candidate field for speaker — four Democrats and four Republicans — seemed to consolidate into two camps: a group supporting Phelan and another backing Ashby. Both candidates had filed for the gavel in recent days as the race quickly escalated heading into Election Day.

On Tuesday night, one Republican in the race, state Rep. Geanie Morrison of Victoria, announced she was backing Ashby for the job. And on Wednesday morning, another Republican in the race, Chris Paddie of Marshall, announced he was supporting Phelan.

“Last night … was a very long, long process — and now it’s time to heal,” Phelan said at the press conference. “The work of the 150 members coming together to serve Texas begins today.”

There had been some Speaker-related news on Monday and even Tuesday, and I had prepped a post about it, which I knew would likely become obsolete as soon as we knew the House situation. And indeed, here we are. That draft is beneath the fold, if you’re interested. Needless to say, the next Legislature has a long to-do list in front of it, and a Speaker who can help get the main things done in a reasonable way will be welcomed by the members. One who can also tell Dan Patrick to go pound sand and who will never commit the classic blunder of saying stupid stuff to Michael Quinn Sullivan, especially when there might be a recorder in operation, would be nice. Good luck to Rep. Phelan if he is indeed the presumptive Speaker. As noted in the story, Rep. Ashby, who has now withdrawn from the race and backed Rep. Morrison, does not see this as being over. Reform Austin, which notes that three of the four Democrats who had filed for Speaker are on that letter Phelan released, has more.

This story ran on Monday, the day before Election Day. Lord knows when I’ll publish this post, and by the time I do it may be irrelevant, but for the sake of the record, here we go.

Rep. Dade Phelan

State Rep. Dade Phelan, a Beaumont Republican, filed Sunday evening to run for Texas House speaker, he confirmed to The Texas Tribune.

Phelan, chair of the powerful House State Affairs Committee, is the seventh candidate in a race that already includes three Republicans and three Democrats. And it comes ahead of an Election Day that could involve Democrats flipping the lower chamber for the first time in nearly two decades.

Phelan’s filing comes after a group of House Republicans gathered Sunday afternoon and picked the lawmaker as their preferred speaker candidate, according to multiple people familiar with the meeting. During that hourslong meeting, some members expressed concern over holding a vote on a speaker candidate before each party knows the partisan breakdown in the 150-member lower chamber.

House members will vote on the next speaker on the first day of the 87th legislative session in January. The winner will be determined by simple majority.

In a statement Tuesday morning, Phelan said he looks “forward to sharing my vision and earning the support of every member of the Texas House.”

“My goal is to focus on what unites us and offer leadership that allows members to represent their unique districts, and the values of the constituents they serve,” he said.

Phelan, who has served in the lower chamber since 2015, joins Republican state Reps. Trent Ashby of Lufkin, Chris Paddie of Marshall and Geanie Morrison of Victoria in the race, as well as Democratic state Reps. Oscar Longoria of Mission, Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio and Senfronia Thompson of Houston.

See here for the previous update. As noted in the story, the total number of Speaker candidates is the same as it was in that previous update, because Rep. Jon Cyrier dropped out and endorsed Rep. Geanie Morrison. Rep. Phil King, a pre-2019 session candidate for Speaker also endorsed Rep. Morrison. I note that the crop of Speaker hopefuls this time around is entirely different from the previous batch. Not sure what to make of that. Scott Braddock, who goes into the machinations from that 2018/2019 Speaker’s race, has more.

UPDATE: Of course, we can’t stop there:

That’s from Election Day, which seems like a bad time to get anyone’s attention, but we’ll see.

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