The Texas Republican Party’s State Executive Committee approved in a historic 55-4 vote on Saturday a resolution censuring House Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont.
The resolution concurs with most of Jasper County’s own censure resolution, which passed on November 10. In December, the SREC considered the Jasper County concurrence before giving Phelan and the full body of members time to prepare for the February 10 vote.
Specifically, the resolution discourages Phelan from participating in this year’s Republican Party primary, strips GOP financial support from his campaign, and potentially opens the door to the party campaigning against him.
The 61 SREC members, composed of one man and one woman from each of the state’s 31 senatorial districts, debated the general concurrence of the county’s censure before making the final vote on Saturday.
Speaking in favor was SREC committeeman Chris Breaux, whose district encompasses Phelan’s. He told the SREC that voting to censure was the right thing to do, even though he was doing so with a heavy heart.
“He’s been obstinate in his wrongness,” Breaux said of Phelan. “He’s going to lash out at us.”
Opposing the resolution was Joe Pojman of Texas Alliance for Life. According to donation records, Phelan has been the top donor to Pojman’s political action committee.
The initial censures originated in the counties of Orange and Jasper, two of the three that make up Phelan’s home district.
Jefferson, the third county, did not pass a resolution censuring Phelan. Its GOP chairman, Joe A. Evans Jr., even handed the speaker his endorsement last summer.
Orange County listed Phelan’s appointment of some Democrats to lead committees in the state House, point of order killing the border security measure House Bill 20, and stalling of school choice legislation.
Jasper, meanwhile, included the same concerns but also mentioned the impeachment attempt of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and its over $4.2 million cost. The SREC’s concurrence considered all five of those concerns.
The Republican parties of Ellis and Liberty also passed independent resolutions slamming Phelan with many of the same concerns. Later, Tarrant, Harris, Travis, Smith, Parker, and Dallas counties passed ones in support of the Orange County measure.
The party’s state chairman, Matt Rinaldi, told Texas Scorecard that the GOP is “committed to supporting Republican officeholders,” but it also must define what it means to be a Republican officeholder.
“When you empower Democrats, by definition, you disempower Republicans, and that been the record of Dade Phelan,” said Rinaldi.
Phelan is not the first Republican House speaker to face a censure by the state party. Similarly, the executive committee condemned former Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio in 2018.
U.S. Rep Tony Gonzales of San Antonio was also censured last year by the Texas GOP for his votes restricting firearms and in support of same-sex marriages.
Phelan is being challenged in the Republican Party primary by David Covey, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and local businesswoman Alicia Davis. Early voting begins February 20, and Election Day is March 5.