Phelan on Track for Victory in Gavel Battle
after Morrison Falls Short in Revival of Bid
Capitol Inside Editor
November 5, 2020
GOP State Rep. Dade Phelan of Beaumont locked down the Texas House speaker's job on Thursday after his only remaining opponent pulled the plug on an on-again, off-again bid for the powerful position amid the apparent recognition that she didn't have the votes to win.
Phelan wasted no time preparing for his ascension to the dais with the enlistment of former state lawmaker Tommy Williams to head the transition team based on the assumption that he can hold the bipartisan coalition that he assembled almost overnight together for two months before the speaker's election in January.
A third-term lawmaker from a wealthy family in the industrial hub known as the Golden Triangle, Phelan had been outgoing Speaker Dennis Bonnen's top choice for the leadership post that the incumbent had won in a more spectacular fashion two years ago.
But Phelan had to overcome an eleventh-hour challenge from State Rep. Geanie Morrison - a veteran Victoria Republican who had support from more than a dozen GOP colleagues who Bonnen had alienated with a primary targeting scheme that took at 10 of them. Morrison had some Democrats in her camp as well for a speaker campaign that she'd cancelled on election day and jump-start the next.
Phelan had released a list with 83 unofficial pledges on Wednesday in the wake of the general election that turned out to be a wash in a chamber where the Republicans had been bracing for a Democratic takeover that failed to materialize the night before. Democrats who'd been supremely confident in a quest for the House majority that they would have seized with a net gain of nine seats on Tuesday when they won one targeted seat while losing another.
Williams appears to be a sound choice for a transition guide as a former employer when Phelan worked in his Texas Senate office as an aide before an eventual graduation to the House after a victory in an open race in 2014.
Williams has been in the process of joining the Austin lobby after stints in Governor Greg Abbott's office and as a high-ranking official in the Texas A&M University System. Williams served three terms in the Texas House before spending a full decade in the Senate where he chaired the Finance Committee during his final regular session in 2013.
more to come ...