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State Rep. Dade Phelan says he has votes to become speaker of Texas House

State Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, announces he has the votes to be elected the next speaker...
State Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, announces he has the votes to be elected the next speaker of the Texas House at a press conference at the Capitol in Austin on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020(Miguel Gutierrez Jr., The Texas Tribune)
Published: Nov. 4, 2020 at 1:05 PM CST
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By Cassandra Pollock, The Texas Tribune Nov. 4, 2020

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.

The news — and the coalescing around Phelan — 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.

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 state Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin. 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.”

The House will officially elect a speaker on the first day of the legislative session in January.

Phelan, who has served in the House since 2015, is currently chair of the powerful House State Affairs Committee. He was a top lieutenant of House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, a Republican who will retire at the end of his term thanks to a political scandal last summer.

Asked how he convinced members to support his speaker bid, Phelan said “it’s about being a honest broker, it’s about calling balls and strikes.”

“It’s not about vote records. ... It’s about trust,” he said. “I think the majority of this list right here that we’ll continue to grow — they trust me and I put my trust in them as well.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/04/texas-house-speaker-dade-phelan/.

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