Half of 182 GOP candidates have yet to sign a pledge to honor the Republican caucus’ choice for the next speaker of the Texas House, making the failure to sign the pledge a key primary election issue in 2018.
|2||Dan Flynn||Bryan Slaton|
|3||Cecil Bell Jr.|
|4||Lance Gooden||Stuart Spitzer|
|6||Matt Schaefer||Ted Kamel|
|8||Byron Cook||Cody Harris|
|9||Chris Paddie||Garrett Boersma|
|11||Travis Clardy||Danny Ward|
|13||Leighton Schubert||Daniel McCarthy|
|13||David K. Stall|
|13||Marc S. Young|
|14||John Raney||Jeston Texeira|
|15||Mark Keough||Jackie Waters|
|18||Ernest Bailes||Emily Cook|
|23||Wayne Faircloth||Mayes Middleton|
|25||Dennis Bonnen||Damon Rambo|
|30||Geanie W. Morrison|
|34||Abel Herrero||Chris Hale|
|36||Sergio Muñoz Jr.|
|38||Eddie Lucio III|
|39||Armando "Mando" Martinez|
|41||Robert "Bobby" Guerra|
|42||Richard Peña Raymond||Luis De La Garza|
|45||Jason A. Isaac||Amber Pearce|
|46||Dawnna Dukes||Gabriel Nila|
|47||Paul Workman||Jay Wiley|
|49||Gina Hinojosa||Kyle Austin|
|52||Larry Gonzales||Christopher L. Ward|
|54||Scott Cosper||Brad Buckley|
|54||Larry S. Smith|
|55||Hugh D. Shine||Brandon Hall|
|56||Charles "Doc" Anderson|
|59||J.D. Sheffield||Chris Evans|
|60||Mike Lang||Jim Largent|
|62||Larry Phillips||Brent Lawson|
|64||Lynn Stucky||Mark Roy|
|65||Ron Simmons||Kevin Simmons|
|72||Drew Darby||Lynette Lucas|
|73||Kyle Biedermann||Dave Campbell|
|74||Alfonso "Poncho" Nevárez|
|77||Evelina "Lina" Ortega|
|78||Joseph "Joe" Moody||Jeffrey Lane|
|87||Four Price||Drew Brassfield|
|88||Ken King||Jason Huddleston|
|89||Jodie Laubenberg||Candy Noble|
|90||Ramon Romero Jr.|
|95||Nicole Collier||Stephen A. West|
|98||Giovanni Capriglione||Armin Mizani|
|99||Charlie Geren||Bo French|
|102||Linda Koop||Chad Carnahan|
|103||Rafael Anchia||Jerry Fortenberry|
|104||Roberto R. Alonzo|
|105||Rodney Anderson||Dinesh Mali|
|106||Pat Fallon||Clint Bedsole|
|107||Victoria Neave||Deanna Maria Metzger|
|112||Angie Chen Button|
|113||Cindy Burkett||Charlie Lauersdorf|
|114||Jason Villalba||Lisa Luby Ryan|
|116||Diana Arévalo||Fernando Padron|
|117||Philip Cortez||Carlos Antonio Raymond|
|118||Tomas Uresti||John Lujan|
|120||Barbara Gervin-Hawkins||Ronald Payne|
|121||Joe Straus||Carlton Soules|
|121||Marc K. Whyte|
|122||Lyle Larson||Chris Fails|
|124||Ina Minjarez||Johnny S. Arredondo|
|126||Kevin Roberts||Gail Stanart|
|126||E. Sam Harless|
|127||Dan Huberty||Reginald C. Grant Jr.|
|131||Alma A. Allen||Syed S. Ali|
|134||Sarah Davis||Susanna Dokupil|
|135||Gary W. Elkins|
|142||Harold Dutton Jr.|
|144||Mary Ann Perez||Gilbert Peña|
|147||Garnet Coleman||Thomas Wang|
|148||Jessica Farrar||Ryan T. McConnico|
|150||Valoree Swanson||James Richard Wilson|
Source: The Republican Party of Texas
The pledge is becoming a major issue since the race for the top job in the House is wide open with the impending retirement of five-term speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.
Heading into the 2018 election, Republicans hold 95 of the 150 seats in the House. Fiscal and social conservatives frustrated by Straus’ legislative tactics are determined to nominate his successor in the party’s caucus — without depending on votes from minority Democrats who Straus used to maintain power.
Rep. Phil King, an announced speaker candidate, said it’s the GOP caucus’ business to decide its leader as long as Republicans hold a House majority.
“Forty-four states have House caucus votes [for speaker]. It’s a reasonable way to elect the speaker,” King, R-Weatherford, told The Texas Monitor in an interview.
King predicted that Republican voters in the March primary will “overwhelmingly” approve a ballot proposition supporting the new speaker selection process. “The grassroots want it. Most people probably thought we do it that way [in caucus] now,” he said.
Rep. John Zerwas, a Straus ally and an announced speaker candidate, did not sign the commitment form. The Richmond Republican, who has no primary challenger, did not respond to The Texas Monitor’s request for comment.
Reforming the speaker selection process is a litmus test for the New Leadership PAC, a political action committee that is raising campaign bounties to defeat Straus-ites in the 2018 primaries.
“Any incumbent who doesn’t sign the pledge has made themselves an adversary of ours,” NLP treasurer Don Dyer said. “[The pledge] is the No. 1 thing on our list of what we expect Republicans to be.”
Two key Straus lieutenants and non-pledgers — Reps. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Sarah Davis, R-West University Place — top the NLP’s hit list, with more to come, Dyer told The Monitor.
Dyer previously referred to the evolving list of targeted candidates as the “Dirty Dozen.”
As of Thursday morning, other non-signing incumbents with primary opponents included:
Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches, Dennis Bonnen of Angleton, Drew Darby of San Angelo, Dan Huberty of Houston, Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Jason Villalba of Dallas, Linda Koop of Richardson, Ken King of Canadian, and Four Price of Amarillo.
Though voluntary, the pledge is proving contentious. An anonymous inquiry to the Texas Ethics Commission asked if the speaker commitment form constituted “legislative bribery.”
The state Republican Party responded by sending public-records requests to all 150 lawmakers in an effort to identify the source of the inquiry.
Four Republican House members — Byron Cook of Corsicana, Phil Stephenson of Rosenberg, Villalba, and Larson — have yet to respond.
The commission has not yet ruled.
Democrats, who would be shut out of the reformed selection process, argue that the House speaker represents the entire state.
Rep. Phil King disagrees, saying, “The speaker is only elected by his district. He isn’t supposed to wield the same level of power” as statewide officeholders, such as the governor and lieutenant governor.
King also noted that Straus’ five-term tenure is a historic outlier.
“One term was standard until the1950s. Not until the ’70s did you see people serving four or five terms,” the veteran lawmaker said. “The House has gone from being member-driven, to speaker-driven. I want to turn that around and push responsibility down to the membership.”
Mark Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, suggested four overlapped reasons why GOP lawmakers wouldn’t sign the pledge.
- They do not agree with the concept of the speaker being effectively chosen in a party caucus rather than on the House floor.
- They believe that a speaker elected on the House floor is likely closer to them ideologically and politically than one chosen in the GOP Caucus.
- They view many proponents of the pledge as their political rivals and do not want to sign something promoted by these rivals.
- They feel no need to sign the pledge since they are unopposed in the GOP primary and see no reason to constrain their future behavior with a pledge.
“For instance, if they sign the pledge and then see the GOP Caucus select someone they consider to be unacceptable next year, then they would be in the uncomfortable position of either voting for a candidate on the House floor who they consider to be unacceptable, or breaking their pledge,” Jones said.
King believes that more House candidates will sign the commitment form in the coming weeks.
“My bet is that by March, most will have signed the pledge. It’s completely reasonable to nominate the speaker in caucus,” he said.
State Republican Chairman James Dickey said, “We appreciate the 91 House race candidates who submitted a form committing to voting on the floor of the House for the Speaker candidate chosen by the Caucus. We are continuing to receive responses and look forward to this number growing even higher.”
Saying “Texas Republican primary voters want — and deserve — to know that their representatives will stand united working together to keep the promises made,” Dickey thanked “those candidates willing to make clear that they will do so.”
Kenric Ward can be reached at [email protected].