GOP primary challengers continue to hit incumbents for empowering Democrats to chair committees in the Republican-run Texas House, a longstanding practice that has continued under Speaker Dade Phelan.

Candidates for state House seats in Collin County fielded questions about the issue at a forum hosted by the Collin County Conservative Republicans.

Banning Democrat committee chairs was a Texas GOP legislative priority for the 2023 session on which House lawmakers failed to deliver, though Phelan appointed fewer Democrat chairs than last session.

Forum moderators asked each House candidate why Democrats are allowed to chair committees and if there is any benefit to the practice. Click on each House District below for a link to a forum video for that race.

House District 33

Challenger Dennis London said, “There is absolutely no benefit whatsoever to having a Democrat committee chair in a Republican-led legislature … Texas is the only state that has this moronic policy.”

He said the “bipartisanship” only works one way, in favor of Democrats, adding that Phelan is “part of the problem, so we need to get rid of him.”

State Rep. Justin Holland (Heath) and challenger Katrina Pierson did not attend the forum. Most of District 33 is in Rockwall County.

House District 61

All three HD 61 primary candidates participated in the forum.

Scandal-plagued freshman State Rep. Frederick Frazier (McKinney) said “I’m with you” on opposing Democrat chairs, but “we have to get to 100 [members]. We have to have bipartisan support for legislation.”

“I respectfully disagree,” said McKinney businesswoman Keresa Richardson. “There is no benefit to appointing Democrats.”

Richardson noted that Phelan appointed a Democrat to chair the Youth Health and Safety Committee. “It’s not a good idea to put a Democrat in control of our children’s health,” she said.

Chuck Branch, a former McKinney City Councilmember and State Republican Executive Committeeman, said Democrats also chair committees on County Affairs and Business. “They don’t agree with us on our values, and shouldn’t chair committees.”

House District 66

Plano businessman Wayne Richard, who previously ran for the HD 66 seat in 2010, told the forum audience “there is no benefit” to Democrat committee chairs. “Do you think the Democrats if they had a majority would be giving chairmanships to key committees to Republicans? No.” he said. “We have got to stop this. … It’s time for real change.”

Five-term State Rep. Matt Shaheen (Plano) said, “I get it. The concern is that conservative legislation would be killed if you have Democrat chairs.” Shaheen said he voted for a rule (which didn’t pass) to keep Democrats from chairing “important” committees, adding that it has “no impact on our values” if Democrats chair committees like Livestock or Tourism.

House District 67

Challenger Daren Meis, a taxpayer champion on the Allen City Council who resigned to run for the state House, said, “One of the benefits to Dade Phelan of appointing Democrat committee chairs is so Democrats continue to vote for Dade Phelan as speaker. … If you send me to Austin, I will not vote for Dade Phelan to be speaker of the House.”

“The trust between you and your representatives has been broken,” Meis added. “My campaign is about getting back to carrying your voice to Austin.”

Six-term State Rep. Jeff Leach (Allen) said that “under Dade Phelan’s leadership” the House has passed conservative legislation to end abortion, allow constitutional carry, and protect election integrity and religious liberty. He said the solution is not to remove Phelan as speaker, but to pass a rule that allows the speaker to remove a committee chair during session if they are blocking conservative priorities.

House District 70

Cryptocurrency advocate Steve Kinard said he does not support Democrat chairs and that “now is the time that we have to end the practice” because security is at risk. “We have Democrats aiding and abetting an invasion at our southern border.”

Joe Collins, who ran for Congress in California in 2020 and 2022, said, “The reason we have Democrat committee chairs is because Dade Phelan has become increasingly unpopular among Republicans but he wants to stay in power.”

HD 70 is currently represented by a Democrat.

House District 89

Three-term State Rep. Candy Noble (Lucas) said she’s had more bills killed by Republican chairs than Democrats. “I would prefer that it be Republicans, but I would prefer that it be conservative Republicans that chaired all the committees,” she said.

Challenger Abraham George, who resigned as chair of the Collin County Republican Party to run for the state House, called Democrat chairs “the Austin Swamp at its best.”

“It’s a simple solution: replace Dade Phelan as speaker,” he said, adding that half of House Republicans are really Democrats.

Ahead of last year’s legislative session, George recorded a video explaining the party’s position on banning Democrat committee chairs. Leach chided George online but refused to say whether he would vote for or against the party’s priority.

Phelan spared Leach and other lawmakers a record vote on the issue by sustaining a point of order that killed the proposed rule change before members voted.

Outside Collin: House District 64

The issue was also a hot-button topic at a forum featuring Republican candidates for House District 64 in Denton and Wise counties.

State Rep. Lynn Stucky (Sanger) said appointing Democrat committee chairs is a tradition that should only be changed by the House Republican caucus deciding “behind closed doors.”

His challengers, Elaine Hays and Andy Hopper, both said they oppose the practice.

Early voting starts February 20 in the March 5 primary election.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.