First Wave of GOP House Speaker Candidates
Could Be Choreographed as Play for Leverage
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
October 29, 2020
A handful of relatively moderate Republicans started getting themselves in position for potential races for Texas House speaker on Thursday in the event that the GOP majority survives a leviathan tidal wave of blue that appears to be barreling down on the Lone State State with just four days to go before the 2020 general election.
State Rep. Oscar Longoria of Mission - one of the few remaining House Democrats who are conservative by the current minority party's standards here - joined a pair of Democratic colleagues in the ring when he made a campaign for the leadership post official today in a move that had been widely expected.
Democratic State Reps. Senfronia Thompson of Houston and Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio got the parade under in the past week when they filed to run for the powerful position that GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen is giving up without a re-election race after two years at the helm of the Legislature's lower chamber.
Longoria entered the ring today when a quartet of Republicans - State Reps. Trent Ashby of Lufkin, John Cyrier of Lockhart, Geanie Morrison of Victoria and Chris Paddie of Marshall - also tossed their names into the competition. GOP State Rep. Dade Phelan of Beaumont appearing to be poised the launch a leadership campaign of his own if he hasn't already.
Cyrier has been perceived to be Bonnen's choice for a replacement in a race that's getting off the ground late after both sides appeared to be waiting to see which party would control the chamber in the wake of an election year that's been the Republicans' worst nightmare with President Donald Trump leading their ticket. Thompson might have forced the hands of potential opponents when she created a special committee for the speaker's election late last week.
The emergence of multiple establishment Republicans as speaker contenders on the same day raised the specter of a potential strategy play that had been coordinated for the sake of maximizing leverage or other reasons.
While the House will elect a new speaker on opening day of the regular session that convenes in January, the competition for the gavel has been on hold with the monstrous distraction of the coronavirus crisis and the tenuous nature of the GOP's grip on the majority that Democrats reclaim for the first time in 18 years with a net gain of nine seats at the ballot box next week.
The eventual winner regardless of his or her party affiliation will most likely ride a bipartisan coalition to the dais based on House history over the course of the past dozen years.
But Bonnen has privately chided more than three dozen House Republicans who he's been referring to as the Surrender Caucus for raising the specter at a meeting on Sunday on the possibility of being prepared to rally behind a singular Democrat if and when the GOP has the majority stripped away at the polls on Tuesday as the consensus underdog.
The moniker has no shortage of irony in light of the fact that Bonnen decided to pull the plug on a re-election campaign in his hometown district after apparently detemining that he would have a tough time winning a second term as speaker in the wake of a primary targeting scheme that prompted hardline conservatives to accuse him of bribery and other misdeeds.