Just one day after the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas called Texas House speaker candidate State Rep. Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) a “political traitor” for courting Democrats in his bid for the gavel, Gov. Greg Abbott extended his congratulations to the lawmaker two months ahead of the official vote.
“Congratulations to my friend, Dade Phelan, for securing the votes—including over 95% of the Republican caucus—to become the next Speaker of the Texas House,” said Abbott in a statement on Tuesday. “A strong conservative, Dade has a proven record of fighting for the lives and livelihoods of all Texans, having played a key role in authoring and passing critical legislation to bolster disaster relief and preparedness following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.”
“I look forward to working with him and all members of the House on commonsense, conservative legislation to create an even brighter future for the people of Texas,” he added.
This statement comes in stark contrast to Monday’s admonition from Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, who didn’t mince words when it came to the party’s opposition to Phelan’s potential election as speaker.
“Therefore, let me clearly state this: the Republican Party of Texas will not support, nor accept, State Rep. Dade Phelan as Speaker of the Texas House,” said West.
“The Republican Party of Texas will not sit back idly and watch leftist Democrats be placed as Committee Chairmen who will undermine, kill, our legislative priorities, as happened in the 86th Texas legislative session.”
Phelan’s candidacy has been met with serious opposition among conservatives over his record during his time in the legislature. As chair of the House State Affairs Committee, Phelan gutted legislation that would have protected small businesses from onerous local mandates.
He was also one of only three Texas House Republicans to receive a positive grade from Equality Texas, a pro-LGBT advocacy organization.
His candidacy was announced after a secret meeting of a faction of Republican lawmakers was held shortly before the election. Quickly, Phelan boasted about his support from Democrat lawmakers and has since gained pledges from a majority of Republicans as well.
Additionally, Phelan has received support from outgoing disgraced Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who attacked Chairman West for his criticism of Phelan during an interview on “The Chad Hasty Show” on Lubbock radio KYFO Tuesday morning.
Despite pronouncements from Phelan, Abbott, or any other lawmakers, members of the Texas House of Representatives will not officially vote for their next speaker until January 12, 2021.