Slawson Speaker Bid May Be in Making
with Impeachment Anniversary Lashing

Capitol Inside
May 27, 2024


1 Dade Phelan (R)
2 Shelby Slawson (R)
3 Tom Oliverson (R)
4 Todd Hunter (R)
5 Ellen Troxclair (R)
6 Cody Harris (R)



State Rep. Shelby Slawson appeared to fire the opening shot in a bid for the Texas House's top leadership post on Monday when she unleashed a blistering analysis of Speaker Dade Phelan on the eve of a primary runoff election that could relegate him to lameduck status.

Slawson - a Stephenville Republican in the midst of her second term - said that she'd chosen today for the four-page critique as the first anniversary of the lower chamber's vote to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton during the regular session's final weekend in 2023. Slawson was one of 23 Republicans who opposed the AG's impeachment last May when 60 GOP members backed the move to give Paxton the boot based on allegations of corruption, whistleblower abuse and adultery.

Slawson acknowledged in an extensive opinion column that "some will find a certain indelicacy" with the timing of the scathing review on the day before the final votes are cast in Phelan's overtime clash with David Covey in House District 21. High-ranking Republicans at the state party convention in San Antonio last week guardedly predicted that Phelan would be ousted in the runoff at a time when Donald Trump has been blasting him on a daily basis in the countdown to Tuesday's vote.

Slawson made no forecast on Phelan's fate in OT. She said nothing about a campaign for speaker. But Slawson has been quietly organizing a block of conservative colleagues for the sake of maximizing clout in the Capitol's west wing - and the piercing diatribe on the Paxton impeachment could put her in position to run for speaker regardless of the outcome of the Phelan-Covey duel at the polls this week.

Phelan has more going against him than any legislative candidate in modern Texas history after trailing Covey by 3 points in the March 5 primary election. But Phelan is from a well-known family and has millions of dollars more to spend on voter turnout than any contender for the Texas House has had in the past. The showdown that pits Covey against Phelan could be a coin flip heading into the runoff vote despite the premature pronouncements of the incumbent's demise in round two.

But Phelan could be the betting favorite in the 2025 leadership competition if he survives the runoff and has seven months to use the massive powers of incumbency that a speaker enjoys to build support for a third term in the dais. GOP State Rep. Tom Oliverson of Cypress entered the race for speaker earlier this year with support among some colleagues on the far right.

Capitol Inside has ranked Slawson in recent months among the top five to 10 potential contenders for speaker in 2025. She could be a frontrunner by Wednesday morning even though she has yet to announce such an endeavor. Slawson had the rare distinction of serving as the chief author of major legislation in her freshman session with the lead role in the House on the state abortion ban.

Slawson, a lawyer, owes Phelan a debt of gratitude for that bullet point on her resume. Slawson received plum assignments from the speaker with appointments to the Calendars Committee and the State Affairs Committee in both of her first two terms in the House. She served as House sponsor for a pair of bills in 2023 designed to improve the Texas power grid.

But Slawson portrayed the impeachment as a train wreck from the time it left the gate. She said she was summoned to the speaker's office on the day of the vote after trying without success to arrange a GOP Caucus meeting on the impeachment the previous day. Slawson was told she could voice her concerns with the chairman of the General Investigating Committee - State Rep. Andrew Murr of Junction. But Slawson said the procedural and political issues that she raised in the meeting with the chair were ignored.

"Every political concern I had was dismissed with bravado that the other chamber, once presented the case, would have no option but to agree," Slawson asserted.

Slawson branded the impeachment as "a top-down, force-feed maneuver of unnecessary political warfare" that backfired "both predictably and horrendously" on Phelan. But Slawson said that she was never instructed on how to vote on Paxton - a claim that a few Republicans who've expressed regrets for votes to impeach have made in hindsight.

"It was apparent that the tightly clenched fist of innermost leadership planned to control the outcome by keeping Republican members disjointed and siloed, with definite vote expectations and no opportunity for group discussion or dissent," Slawson said. "This was as disappointing as it was consistent with the purposeful underutilization of the caucus and its members all session."

Slawson said the impeachment had taken the shine off conservative achievements that the Legislature recorded last year. "Republicans secured a great number of conservative wins last session; and yet impeachment overshadows every victory," Slawson added. "We have a shared responsibility to ensure the failures of the past are neither rewarded or perpetuated."

While Slawson didn't raise the specter of a speaker's race in her words, she talked at times in the analysis today like a candidate in waiting.

"Guiding the House out from under the massive black cloud an elite few in leadership brought upon it is going to require candor, humility, transparency, and commitment to change that decentralizes the power structure that created the mess in the first place."

more to come ...








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