Timeless Ms. T Gets Jump on Speaker Pack
as Women Dems Have Chance to Pick Victor
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
October 24, 2020
Legendary State Rep. Senfronia Thompson entered the race for Texas House speaker on Friday as the immediate favorite with major competition on her side of the aisle in a chamber that appears poised to go blue at the polls 10 days from now.
Most of the potential Democratic and Republican contenders for the lower chamber's top leadership have appeared to be keeping their powder dry until they learn on November 3 who the majority party will be in 2021. The eventual winner in the second consecutive open speaker's race in Texas presumably will come from the party that controls 76 seats or more in the west wing next year.
Democratic State Reps. Oscar Longoria of Mission, Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio and Joe Moody of El Paso have all been attempting to position themselves for speaker bids in chamber where there will be pressure to have a Hispanic in the powerful post that Speaker Dennis Bonnen is giving up after one chaotic term.
But Democratic women could control a third or more of the House's 150 seats next year and have the ability as a result to elect one of their own as the new speaker if they banded behind a single candidate. Thompson's toughest competitor in a wide open battle for the gavel could be Democratic State Rep. Ina Minjarez of San Antonio.
GOP State Reps. John Cyrier of Lockhart and James Frank of Wichita Falls also have been jockeying for the upcoming vacancy in the event that the Republican majority survives a potential down-ballot disaster with President Donald Trump tanking as the party ruler.
The Republicans probably can expect the field to mushroom if they hold on to the House majority in the general election with a status quo vote in the midst of the most unconventional American election in history. But some Republicans already have contingency plans under way in hopes of uniting behind an eventual Democratic victor who depends on their support.
But there's no guarantee that the House will even have a majority amid the possibility of a chamber divided straight down the middle with 76 Republicans and the same number of Democrats will the regular session convenes in January with the speaker's election as the first major act of business.
The race might be Thompson's to lose if the Democrats are back at the helm after picking up nine seats or more next month. An 81-year-old attorney who's been a member of the House for almost four dozen years, Thompson has been one of the most prolific and respected lawmakers in Texas since she arrived in Austin during Richard Nixon's second term as president.
Thompson won a third term three years later when Jimmy Carter carried Texas as the last Democrat to win here at the top of the ticket. But Thompson has worked across the aisle despite a record as an unapologetic liberal who's chaired House committees under two GOP speakers and a pair of Democrats as well.