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State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, announced Friday he is running for speaker, challenging fellow Republican Dade Phelan.
Tinderholt is one of the furthest-right Republicans in the chamber, and in a statement, he made clear he would be running on his opposition to Democratic committee chairs.
“Will the priority legislation of the Republican Party of Texas receive a vote on the Texas House floor?” Tinderholt said in a statement. “The truth is, we have no idea with our current speaker in control.”
Phelan is expected to run for speaker again but has not made it official yet. His office declined to comment on Tinderholt’s announcement.
Tinderholt has served in the House since 2015 and once was a member of the staunchly conservative Freedom Caucus. Even before Texas’ latest restrictions, he has been an ardent opponent of abortion, filing legislation that would make it possible to charge a woman who has an abortion with criminal homicide.
Phelan has been speaker since 2021, when he was elected with near-unanimous support of the 150-member chamber. He helped steer the state further right through his first session, allowing passage of the state’s new laws banning almost all abortion and allowing permitless carry of handguns.
But his critics on the right have not been satisfied, arguing conservative priorities will always be held back if the minority party is permitted to chair committees and control what legislation reaches the floor. Like his GOP predecessors, Phelan has given some chairmanships to Democrats, including on the prominent House Public Education Committee.
In his statement, Tinderholt pointed out that over 80% of March primary voters agreed with a nonbinding ballot proposition saying Democrats should not be committee chairs.
In addition to appointing committee chairs, the speaker has heavy influence over what legislation makes it out of the chamber. All 150 members vote on the speaker position at the start of the biennial regular session which starts in January.
While Phelan did not comment on Tinderholt’s announcement, one of his lieutenants, GOP Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock, was dismissive of the news on Twitter.
“You aren’t actually a real candidate for Speaker until at least 20 members will say they are with you,” said Burrows, who chairs the House Calendars Committee.