Dade Phelan has survived a challenge to his role as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives … and for that I am glad he did.
Why? Because the challenge came from a fellow Republican who doesn’t much cotton to the way Phelan doles out House committee chairmanships. You see, Phelan — a Beaumont Republican — handed chairmanships to some of those dreaded Democrats with whom he serves in the Legislature.
The insurgency came from Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Tarrant County Republican, who sought to replace Phelan as speaker. The final vote was 78 to 6.
Phelan’s bipartisan handling of the speakership is not unlike so many of the individuals who preceded him. Speakers Joe Straus, Dennis Bonnen and Tom Craddick all handed chairman’s gavels to Democrats. The most recent Democratic speaker, Pete Laney, also was generous in sharing power with Republicans.
According to the Texas Tribune: In response to the vote Saturday, Tinderholt said on Twitter he is “undeterred in my fight to ensure we have strong conservative leadership this session” and added that he will “look forward to the floor vote on the first day of session.” The 88th Texas Legislature begins meeting on Jan. 10.
The endorsement by the Republican legislative caucus only strengthens Phelan’s hand as the entire Legislature will vote next month to select the next speaker. Phelan needs 76 votes and the GOP endorsement would seemingly ensure Phelan has them.
Phelan merely is following a tradition set long ago in a legislative body that works best when Democrats and Republicans can find common ground on legislation that works for all Texans. Sharing some of the power in the manner Phelan has chosen is a step toward achieving that legislative success.