In 2017, I was one of five state representatives who participated in writing a rule that established a process for the Texas Republican Caucus to select the speaker of the House prior to the first day of session. This was an effort led by conservatives in order to end the practice of Democrats being courted to help Republicans gain the majority necessary to win the speaker’s election.

The passage of this rule is one of the many reasons credited with ending the speakership of Joe Straus, who opted against running for re-election after it was passed. 

Unfortunately, less than two years later, Dennis Bonnen, prior to the GOP caucus vote, announced to Texas that the “speaker’s race was over.” How did he do this? He garnered the support of Democrats before the caucus ever voted.  

Two years later, Dade Phelan declared the “race is over.” He also did this by courting the support of some liberal Democrats, many of whom were later rewarded with powerful chairmanships they used to kill Republican legislation. 

So, now we have the third session in which this caucus rule is in place, and probably the first time Dade Phelan and his allies will want it followed. Why? Because it would keep legislators from having to take a public vote on what kind of leadership they want in Texas, and it would then protect Phelan’s lieutenants from having to take ownership, in the event Phelan wins, of the mountain of Republican policy he kills. 

I’m sorry, but until our sitting speaker will renounce the liberal Democrats who elevated him to power, fled to Washington D.C., and used their leadership positions to kill GOP policy, then we don’t actually have a Republican speaker dedicated to respecting our caucus rules—rules designed specifically to decrease Democrats’ influence in the Republican-led House. 

I believe that in order to advance Republican priorities in the Texas House, we need a Republican speaker—not one who openly courts Democrats and then uses their support to bully conservative Republican lawmakers into supporting him.

When I supported the effort to take the speaker vote into the caucus, my intention was to empower my fellow Republicans to defeat the Democrats and elect a Republican speaker. Under Dennis Bonnen and Dade Phelan, it became a tool they used to prevent transparent votes on their bid for leadership.

Phelan went to the Democrats because he wanted the power of the speaker’s position. Out of gratitude to those Democrats who got him the gavel, he handed them an immense amount of power—power they have used to not only kill Republican policy, but to raise significant money from special interests that depend on their sole discretion to pass their policy. In turn, these Democrats then spend money we essentially gave them in general elections to try and turn Texas blue. 

If Speaker Phelan would like to renounce his support from Democrats and make it clear the House will not hand over immense power to radical leftists in our chamber, then we could use the caucus process as it was intended. Unfortunately, he appears to be determined to defend a system that serves the Swamp rather than the citizens.

This system must change. That’s why as a member of the House last session, I voted for the rule to end Democrat chairmanships, and it’s why I am urging my colleagues to vote for the rule change this session.

It’s also why as a candidate for speaker, I have decided to take the race to the floor of the House. I know this decision will upset some lawmakers who would prefer we make more decisions in private, where the citizens can’t see the debate. I know it will upset some lawmakers who like to hide behind the legislative process, rules, or procedure rather than articulate what they actually believe.

However, I believe that as citizen-leaders, we should never shy away from being accountable to our voters. Republican voters—indeed, all Texas voters—deserve to know where their lawmaker stands.

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Tony Tinderholt

State Representative Tony Tinderholt is a father, veteran, and conservative Republican from House District 94.