A candidate in a Democrat runoff race for the Texas House spoke openly about Texas Democrats’ plan to suppress conservative legislation in the next legislative session: another “coalition” Speaker of the House.
In a forum Monday night, Chito Vela, the top vote-getter in the six-way Democrat primary that saw State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D–Pflugerville) lose her seat in March, was asked how he and other Democrats could be effective in fighting against bills from the Republican-led legislature.
His answer pulled back the curtain on liberals’ best hope to kill conservative bills in 2019:
One of the most critical votes is going to be that first vote where members of the Texas House vote for a Speaker. That will tell us so much about how the legislature is going to go and how Democrats will be treated and how the 2019 session is going to be like. If there are enough Democrats, if we have 60-65 Democrats, we can band together and we can pull 15-20 Republicans over to our side and we can effectively block bills that are coming out of the Senate and into the House. That vote is going to be so key, we need a good moderate Speaker.
If this sounds familiar, it should. It is exactly the sort of “coalition” vote, with Democrats joining with a minority of Republicans, that propelled Texas House Speaker Joe Straus into power in 2009.
Despite new Republican caucus rules that create a process for nominating a Speaker in caucus, some liberal Republican candidates already appear to be pursuing this strategy. State Reps. Drew Darby (R–San Angelo) and Travis Clardy (R–Nacogdoches) are being floated, among others, as potential coalition candidates.
If the Texas House Republican Caucus does not band together and prevent such a coalition from seizing power, Texans could see another reign of liberal leadership in the Texas House that, as the Straus-era has taught us, will be difficult to overcome if installed.
The field of currently announced candidates for Speaker include State Reps. John Zerwas (R–Richmond), Phil King (R–Weatherford), Tan Parker (R–Flower Mound), and Eric Johnson (D–Dallas). Legislators will cast their votes for Speaker when the legislature reconvenes in January.