AUSTIN – With the 88th session of the Texas Legislature now in full swing, several Dallas-area representatives spoke with The Dallas Express about the recent re-election of Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) to the speakership of the Texas House.
Phelan faced a challenge from fellow Republican Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington). However, Tinderholt’s opposition was overwhelmingly defeated when every Democrat in the House cast a vote for Phelan, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Several Dallas-area House Democrats subsequently explained their reasoning.
“Dade Phelan gets it. He has proven himself during the 87th legislative session as a Speaker who is measured, balanced and thoughtful,” said Rep. Carl Sherman Sr. (D-Lancaster), who represents the south side of Dallas County, speaking with The Dallas Express.
“Moreover, Phelan understands that as Speaker, he is the representative leader of the entire House of Representatives, not the House of Republicans or Democrats. Therefore, Phelan was the number one choice as a minority House member,” Sherman concluded.
Sherman, who also serves as a senior minister in the Church of Christ, also asserted, “It’s critical that a diverse Texas have a bipartisan vote on all issues impacting one of the most diverse states in the United States.”
Rep. Toni Rose (D-Balch Springs), who gave one of the seconding speeches on the House floor for Phelan’s nomination, echoed many of Sherman’s points.
“Speaker Phelan has proven himself to be a capable and fair leader of the Texas House,” she claimed. “Though we may not agree on every policy issue, he is very strategic in finding areas where there can be consensus and empowers members to represent their districts.”
Rose continued, “Bipartisanship is essential. Neither party has a monopoly on good policy solutions. Creating an atmosphere where members of both parties can contribute meaningfully leads to better outcomes for all Texans.”
Prior to the vote for speaker, Tinderholt suggested that Democratic support for Phelan hinged on such deference to the minority party.
“Under Dade Phelan’s leadership, Texas Democrats were allowed to break quorum and have suffered no consequences for putting taxpayers on the hook for three special sessions,” Tinderholt wrote in a statement. “Now, as we approach another legislative session, Phelan plans to reward Democrats who broke quorum with committee chairmanships and has refused to articulate his support for the Texas GOP’s legislative priorities.”
The debate over whether the House would continue the practice of appointing members of the minority party to chair important committees was central to Phelan’s re-election as speaker.
The Republican Party of Texas had listed banning Democrat chairs among its top legislative priorities going into the session. Additionally, a poll of GOP voters conducted by the party found that over 81% of respondents thought the House should stop “awarding committee chairmanships to Democrats.”
Before the beginning of the session, Phelan vocally defended the tradition of appointing members of the opposing party to influential and powerful positions. This stance contributed to Tinderholt’s decision to launch a bid for the speakership.
After securing the position, Phelan effectively prevented a vote on the floor by sustaining points of order against various proposals that would have stopped or limited the appointments of Democrat party chairs, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.