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State Rep. Dade Phelan files to run for Texas House speaker

Phelan joins fellow Republicans Trent Ashby, Chris Paddie and Geanie Morrison in the race for speaker. He’s the seventh candidate for the position.

At right, Chairman Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, listens to testimonies during a State Affairs committee hearing on Feb. 27, 2019.

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.

Candidates are running to replace GOP House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who will retire at the end of his term after a political scandal last year.

Up until late October, the contest to replace Bonnen had mainly been quiet — members from both major political parties had said they wanted to get through the Nov. 3 election before any considerable movement could happen in the speaker's race. Thompson, the longest-serving woman and Black person in the Texas Legislature's history, was the first candidate to file paperwork on Oct. 23. Every other member in the running declared their bids for the gavel in quick succession last week.

As those announcements played out, Thompson picked up support from the House's Harris County Democratic delegation and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, putting the number of members publicly backing her bid for speaker at 23.

Morrison has picked up backings from state Rep. John Cyrier — a Lockhart Republican who filed for speaker Thursday but withdrew from the race the next day — and state Rep. Phil King, a Weatherford Republican who chairs the powerful House Redistricting Committee. King told the Tribune that supporting Morrison was, “a wonderful opportunity to pick Texas’ first woman speaker”.

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