Opinion: The King is Dead. Long Live the King, But Not this Monarchy.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan | Image by Bob Daemmrich/CapitolPressPhoto/Pool

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan is hanging by a thread. He lost his primary race, but his opponent finishing short of a majority in round one only delays the inevitable in the runoff on May 28th. Dade will most certainly lose that contest.

It’s been over 50 years since a Texas House Speaker has lost his primary. Phelan did about everything wrong: he teamed up with Democrats to gain his speakership, appointed Democrats to chairmanships, stalled significant conservative legislation such as school choice, and most unforgivingly, made his members walk the plank by taking tough votes that they couldn’t defend back home to their constituents. If a House Speaker cannot defend himself, then he certainly cannot defend his members in the House. And indeed, he did not, as a record number of incumbents lost with an additional group having to face runoffs, including himself. Of the eight House runoffs with incumbents on the ballot on May 28th, incumbents will ostensibly lose at least six, possibly all of them.

Even if Phelan wins his runoff by some miracle, he won’t be House Speaker again; he is far too weak, and the members are far too beat up due to his leadership. Members cannot afford round two of the massacre he brought upon his supporters this past election. A few of his “faithful” lieutenants have already been calling around trying to garner support to be the next Speaker, but they dare not do it publicly lest their overlord discovers such.

On May 29th, there will be quite a few current House members announcing their intention to become Speaker. The problem is that if any of them follow the same route as all House Speakers have pursued over the past decade, of winning the Speakership by clinching the block of Democrat House members and thus appointing many of them as committee chairs and passing much of their desired legislation, that new Speaker will be hounded by the grassroots from Day 1. They will be attacked mercilessly and will also cause many who follow them to lose their subsequent election.

Times have changed in the Texas House. March 5th was a seminal election. A passing of the torch. This has created a unique opportunity for a conservative Republican to become Speaker. I have privately spoken to State Representatives of various stripes, who all agree on the need for a cultural change in the Texas House. The Reps are fatigued and ready for new leadership, more conservative leadership. Competent leadership. There’s an opportunity to lock up the Speakership before Phelan’s inner circle announces on May 29th and orchestrates a simple passing of the baton.

Will a real, conservative Republican finally become Speaker?

An unapologetic conservative who announces their candidacy for Speakership soon will have a clear lane to wrap it up before the primary runoff. Who will take the initiative? To be successful and receive statewide support from the grassroots, they must embrace each of the following;

  1. Agree that the Speaker will be decided within the Republican caucus exclusively, will follow the rules of the caucus and will agree such will be decided by secret ballot. Much like when a new Pope is selected, Republican caucus members must stay locked in a room until they produce their nominee. To keep the Democrats out of this and secure a cultural change, the Republican caucus, including new incoming members, must meet this summer, early, and unify and coalesce around this new speaker.
  2. Will agree to work with our friends across the aisle but will install no Democrat chairs.
  3. Insist upon a new cadre of House Parliamentarians that aren’t Democrats. Parliamentarians that are fair to all parties but rule on the merits, not politics, as has happened for the past decade.
  4. Follow a course similar to the Hastert rule – unless 2/3 of Republican House members support a bill, it won’t be brought to the floor for a vote. And if 2/3 of Republican House members support a bill, then it will for sure be brought to the floor for a vote.
  5. Change archaic House rules so that points of order cannot be called for some of the most minor of infractions.

If you are a Republican primary voter and agree with these tenets, then I encourage you to call your House member and let them know. Perhaps even encourage them to adopt these principles and run for the Speakership themselves.

If you are a Republican member of the Texas House and can agree to the above, then I encourage you to immediately announce your candidacy for Speaker of the Texas House.

The king is dead. The only question is whether Republican members will continue to participate in the corrupt bargain or will the end of Phelan’s speakership also usher in a new era of House leadership.

Long live the king, but not this monarchy.

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