Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has announced he has enough support in the Texas House to elect him as the legislative body's leader for the upcoming legislative session.
Phelan announced that he has pledges from 106 House members - 57 Republicans and 49 Democrats - which is well over the 76-vote simple majority he needs to be elected. Phelan has represented House District 21 since 2015 and currently chairs the House State Affairs Committee.
If elected speaker, Phelan would serve in the role for the next two years and replace Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), who did not seek re-election to the House this year after one term in the position. The official election for House speaker will take place in January when the new Legislature is sworn in.
Eight different House members - four Republicans and four Democrats - had announced plans ahead of last week's election to run for the position. But it wasn't until it became clear that Republicans would hold onto their majority in the House that its members began coalescing around their preferred candidates. Just two days after the elections, Phelan had already compiled a list of 83 members supporting him for speaker.
Among Phelan's supporters are high-profile Democrats such as Reps. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and Joe Moody (D-El Paso), both of whom had earlier declared their own bids for the speaker position. The list also includes Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake), who chairs the powerful budget-writing House Appropriations Committee.
Meanwhile, Texas GOP Chair Allen West said in an email to supporters this week that he state party would not support or accept Phelan as the House's next speaker. West, who does not cast a vote in the speaker's race, said the state Republican Party could not support someone "who would seek affirmation from progressive socialist Democrats to attain that position."
Nonetheless, Phelan has begun putting together a speaker's transition team to help recruit staff and develop working groups among House members. One of those groups, Phelan announced this week, is a bipartisan workgroup to review and make recommendations on legislative operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.