On Friday, Republican State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (Arlington) officially filed as a candidate for speaker of the Texas House, challenging incumbent Speaker Dade Phelan (Beaumont).
Tinderholt was first elected to the Texas House in 2015 and is a taxpayer champion with an A+ career rating on our Fiscal Responsibility Index.
Upon filing, Tinderholt released the following statement:
“Will the priority legislation of the Republican Party of Texas receive a vote on the Texas House floor? The truth is, we have no idea with our current speaker in control. In fact, most Republicans will tell you that they fully expect many important Republican policies to die at the hands of liberal committee chairs appointed by Speaker Phelan.”
“Over 80% of the Texas GOP voters (Proposition 6, March 2022 primary elections) have asked the legislature to pass a rule ending the practice of handing over significant power to Democrats through committee chairmanships, a rule which Phelan has continued to oppose. In conversations with many members of the Texas House it was revealed that some of them haven’t had a one-on-one conversation with our current speaker since the end of special session last year. It is clear that Texas Republicans need new leadership who will fight for our values. I am running for Speaker of the Texas House to ensure we do the will of our voters and make Texas an even better state.”
The Issue of Committee Chairmanships
As the 87th Legislative Session kicked off in January 2021, Tinderholt found himself among only a small contingent of Republican lawmakers voting in favor of proposed House rule changes to require that committee chairmanships only be awarded to members of the majority party.
Since then, a 2022 Republican primary ballot proposition was passed overwhelmingly by Republican voters (81.24% for, 18.76% against) stating, “The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature should end the practice of awarding committee chairmanships to Democrats.”
Republican delegates also sought fit to add the issue as a legislative priority going into the next legislative session supporting language that says:
“Ban Democrat Chairs: To ensure all legislative Republican priorities are given a fair opportunity to become law, the Republican-controlled Texas legislature shall adopt a rule that would end the practice of awarding committee chairmanships to Democrats.”
In the last legislative session, only two House lawmakers voted against electing Phelan as speaker of the House: Republican State Reps. Jeff Cason (Bedford) and Bryan Slaton (Royse City). Cason chose not to seek re-election after his district was redrawn to be favorable to a Democrat candidate during the decennial redistricting process, something he claims was intentional based on his opposition to Phelan’s candidacy. Slaton will be returning for the 88th Legislative Session.
With Tinderholt making the issue a center point of his campaign for speaker of the House, it is unclear whether returning House lawmakers have changed their minds on the subject.
What is Next?
The election for speaker of the Texas House will not officially take place until the Legislature convenes on January 10, 2023.
In recent previous speaker race challenges, the challengers dropped out before the Legislature convened to vote.
Some lawmakers took to Twitter to give their initial reactions to Tinderholt’s announcement:
Republican State Rep. Jeff Leach (Allen), who is the current chairman of the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee, said:
Speaker @DadePhelan is the most conservative Speaker in the history of the Texas House. And it’s not even close. He is the right leader for this crucial time. I’m proud to support him again and look forward to working with him to make the 88th #txlege a resounding success.
— Jeff Leach (@leachfortexas) November 4, 2022
Republican State Rep. Dustin Burrows (Lubbock), who is the current chairman of the House Calendars Committee, said:
You aren’t actually a real candidate for Speaker until at least 20 members will say they are with you. . .
— Dustin Burrows (@Burrows4TX) November 4, 2022
Notably, Burrows was among only 19 House lawmakers who voted for former State Rep. Scott Turner when he challenged former House Speaker Joe Straus for the gavel back in 2015.