The Texas House Republican establishment rejoiced over the re-election of Dade Phelan as speaker of the House. Grassroots Texans, on the other hand, expressed disappointment.
“I’ve been on this scene for probably 30 years, and I definitely would have preferred [State Rep. Tony] Tinderholt,” said Paula Moore of San Antonio.
Moore, one of many citizens who traveled to Austin to observe Texas lawmakers coming together for the 2023 legislative session, was not alone in her feelings about the state House speakership race.
On Tuesday, January 10, the Texas Capitol’s auditorium was filled with Texans eagerly observing the speaker vote. Boos filled the chamber as State Rep. Cody Harris (R–Palestine) nominated Phelan; the divide between grassroots and the Republican establishment was made clear by the crowd’s loud cheers when State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) nominated State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) for the speakership.
“I’m not real happy,” said Al Highfield, president of the Republican Club of Comal County, after the vote.
Roland Flores of the Rio Grande Valley said he was “very disappointed” with the result. “I think from the conservative side … we’ve come up short again.”
“We’re very disappointed,” agreed Angela Smith of the Fredericksburg Tea Party. “We have already seen Dade Phelan in a position of power. We know what he will do. Last session was extremely disappointing, especially for our kids.”
This election strongly contrasts with last week’s events, where a coalition of conservative public servants managed to force concessions from the federal Republican establishment in the U.S. House.
“What we saw in Washington was a few brave conservatives standing up to a horde of moderates and RINOs, and we can see that they can make some real traction,” said Andy Hopper of Wise County Conservatives.
In the Texas House, only three state representatives voted against Phelan, who was supported by a coalition of 145 Republicans and Democrats. State Reps. Richard Hayes (R) and Ana-Maria Ramos (D) abstained.
Now the question remains as to whether or not the Republican-controlled House will ban Democrats from chairing committees. The majority of grassroots activists Texas Scorecard interviewed at the Capitol on Tuesday expressed strong disapproval about Speaker Phelan giving such power to the Democrats.
“That’s like inviting a robber into your house and saying, ‘You can take over if you want to,’ ” Highfield said.
“Why elect Republicans if you’re going to have Democrats run things?” asked Jeannine Owen of San Antonio.