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Texas 2020 Elections

The race for Texas House speaker has quickly become a crowded contest as balance of power hinges on Tuesday's election

Republican state Reps. Trent Ashby, John Cyrier, Chris Paddie and Geanie Morrison are the first four from their party to file. And state Rep. Oscar Longoria became the third Democrat to file for the leadership post.

Empty chamber of the Texas House of Representatives at the state captiol.

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Four Republicans and one Democrat declared bids for speaker of the Texas House on Thursday, bringing the number of candidates in the race to seven. Until Thursday, no Republicans had filed to run for the job.

Republican state Reps. Trent Ashby of Lufkin, Chris Paddie of Marshall, John Cyrier of Lockhart and Geanie Morrison of Victoria all filed Thursday afternoon. State Rep. Oscar Longoria, D-Mission, also announced his candidacy, making him the third Democrat to enter the race. State Reps. Senfronia Thompson of Houston and Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio filed paperwork to run for the job last week.

More candidates are expected to file, though it won't be clear which party will be in control of the House — and by how many seats — until after Tuesday's election.

Candidates are vying to replace Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who will retire after serving one term, thanks to a political scandal last year.

The House will vote for a new speaker when the Legislature convenes in January for its 87th legislative session, a 140-day stretch that will feature a difficult budget-writing task due to the economic shortfall from the coronavirus pandemic. The Legislature is also expected to take up redistricting and several other challenging issues next year.

In statements, every member who filed Thursday pointed to the challenges state lawmakers will all but certainly have to tackle when the legislative session begins in January to help make their pitch for why they're the best candidate for the job.

Ashby, who has served in the House since 2013, said, "it is critically important that the next Speaker fosters the trust and cooperation necessary to overcome these challenges and deliver the results that all Texans expect and deserve."

Cyrier, who has served in the House since 2015, said the session "will be a demonstration of Texans' resilience."

“My top priority as speaker will be to work with all members of the House and build consensus during what is sure to be a challenging session," Cyrier said.

Longoria, who has served in the House since 2013, said he has received support "from a bipartisan coalition" of House colleagues.

"I am running for Speaker to ensure that we have stability, civility, and integrity in the Texas House," he said. "The unprecedented challenges we face require a leader who can build consensus across the political aisle, across rural and urban communities, and across ideologies."

And Morrison, who has served since 1999, said she would lead the House, if elected speaker, "with integrity and transparency."

"Working together," she said, "we will continue to show how Texas leads."

Later Thursday, Paddie, who has served in the lower chamber since 2013, said in a statement that "it's time for the House to make a new beginning ... and it would be my honor to provide leadership and support for all Members as we address the challenges that confront our state."

Thompson, the longest-serving woman and Black person in the history of the Texas Legislature, filed Friday to run for the gavel. Over the past two days, two coalitions — the lower chamber's Harris County Democratic delegation and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus — have announced their support for Thompson's speaker bid, putting the number of members publicly backing her candidacy at 23. The winning candidate will need a majority of votes.

Thompson's number of supporters, of course, could change after Election Day. Democrats need to gain nine seats in the 150-member chamber to gain control of the House for the first time in nearly two decades. Dozens of House seats are widely viewed as competitive.

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