In Texas House, pledge deniers face primary battles

Texas State Rep. Sarah Davis
Texas State Rep. Sarah Davis

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.

1Gary VanDeaver
2Dan FlynnBryan Slaton
3Cecil Bell Jr.
4Lance GoodenStuart Spitzer
4Ashley McKee
4Earl Brunner
4Keith Bell
4Marty Reid
5Cole Hefner
6Matt SchaeferTed Kamel
7Jay Dean
8Byron CookCody Harris
8Linda Timmerman
8Thomas McNutt
9Chris PaddieGarrett Boersma
10John Wray
11Travis ClardyDanny Ward
12Kyle Kacal
13Leighton SchubertDaniel McCarthy
13David K. Stall
13Marc S. Young
13Ben Leman
13Jill Wolfskill
14John RaneyJeston Texeira
14Sarah Laningham
14Rick Davis
15Mark KeoughJackie Waters
15Steve Toth
16Will Metcalf
17John Cyrier
18Ernest BailesEmily Cook
19James White
20Terry Wilson
21Dade Phelan
22Joe Deshotel
23Wayne FairclothMayes Middleton
24Greg Bonnen
25Dennis BonnenDamon Rambo
26Rick Miller
27Ron Reynolds
28John Zerwas
29Ed Thompson
30Geanie W. Morrison
31Ryan Guillen
32Todd Hunter
33Justin Holland
34Abel HerreroChris Hale
35Oscar Longoria
36Sergio Muñoz Jr.
37René Oliveira
38Eddie Lucio III
39Armando "Mando" Martinez
40Terry Canales
41Robert "Bobby" Guerra
42Richard Peña RaymondLuis De La Garza
43J.M. Lozano
44John Kuempel
45Jason A. IsaacAmber Pearce
45Naomi Naraviz
45Amy Akers
45Austin Talley
45Ken Strange
46Dawnna DukesGabriel Nila
47Paul WorkmanJay Wiley
47Patricia Vredevelt
48Donna Howard
49Gina HinojosaKyle Austin
50Celia Israel
51Eddie Rodriguez
52Larry GonzalesChristopher L. Ward
52Cynthia Flores
52Jeremy Story
53Andrew Murr
54Scott CosperBrad Buckley
54Larry S. Smith
55Hugh D. ShineBrandon Hall
55CJ Grisham
56Charles "Doc" Anderson
57Trent Ashby
58DeWayne Burns
59J.D. SheffieldChris Evans
60Mike LangJim Largent
60Gregory Risse
61Phil King
62Larry PhillipsBrent Lawson
62Kevin Couch
62Reggie Smith
63Tan Parker
64Lynn StuckyMark Roy
65Ron SimmonsKevin Simmons
66Matt Shaheen
67Jeff Leach
68Drew Springer
69James Frank
70Scott Sanford
71Stan Lambert
72Drew DarbyLynette Lucas
73Kyle BiedermannDave Campbell
74Alfonso "Poncho" Nevárez
75Mary González
76César Blanco
77Evelina "Lina" Ortega
78Joseph "Joe" MoodyJeffrey Lane
79Joe Pickett
80Tracy King
81Brooks Landgraf
82Tom Craddick
83Dustin Burrows
84John Frullo
85Phil Stephenson
86John Smithee
87Four PriceDrew Brassfield
88Ken KingJason Huddleston
88Richard Beyea
89Jodie LaubenbergCandy Noble
89John Payton
90Ramon Romero Jr.
91Stephanie Klick
92Jonathan Stickland
93Matt Krause
94Tony Tinderholt
95Nicole CollierStephen A. West
96Bill Zedler
97Craig Goldman
98Giovanni CapriglioneArmin Mizani
99Charlie GerenBo French
100Eric Johnson
101Chris Turner
102Linda KoopChad Carnahan
102Scott Kilgore
103Rafael AnchiaJerry Fortenberry
104Roberto R. Alonzo
105Rodney AndersonDinesh Mali
106Pat FallonClint Bedsole
106Jared Patterson
107Victoria NeaveDeanna Maria Metzger
107Brad Perry
107Joe Ruzicka
108Morgan Meyer
109Helen Giddings
110Toni Rose
111Yvonne Davis
112Angie Chen Button
113Cindy BurkettCharlie Lauersdorf
113Jim Phaup
113Jonathan Boos
114Jason VillalbaLisa Luby Ryan
115Matt Rinaldi
116Diana ArévaloFernando Padron
117Philip CortezCarlos Antonio Raymond
117Michael Berlanga
118Tomas UrestiJohn Lujan
119Roland Gutierrez
120Barbara Gervin-HawkinsRonald Payne
121Joe StrausCarlton Soules
121Charlotte Williamson
121Marc K. Whyte
121Adrian Spears
121Steve Allison
121Matt Beebe
122Lyle LarsonChris Fails
123Diego Bernal
124Ina MinjarezJohnny S. Arredondo
125Justin Rodriguez
126Kevin RobertsGail Stanart
126E. Sam Harless
126Kevin Fulton
127Dan HubertyReginald C. Grant Jr.
128Briscoe Cain
129Dennis Paul
130Tom Oliverson
131Alma A. AllenSyed S. Ali
132Mike Schofield
133Jim Murphy
134Sarah DavisSusanna Dokupil
135Gary W. Elkins
136Tony Dale
137Gene Wu
138Dwayne Bohac
139Jarvis Johnson
140Armando Walle
141Senfronia Thompson
142Harold Dutton Jr.
143Ana Hernandez
144Mary Ann PerezGilbert Peña
144Ruben Villarreal
145Carol Alvarado
146Shawn Thierry
147Garnet ColemanThomas Wang
148Jessica FarrarRyan T. McConnico
149Hubert Vo
150Valoree SwansonJames 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.

  1. They do not agree with the concept of the speaker being effectively chosen in a party caucus rather than on the House floor.
  2. 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.
  3. They view many proponents of the pledge as their political rivals and do not want to sign something promoted by these rivals.
  4. 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].


  1. There’s been a pledge around for a long time. I know judicial appointment candidates who had to sign a pledge to be considered for appointment by governors. It’s 3rd world folks. Wake up

  2. Compare donors

    Nice concise timeline for all dirty politics – please share share share

    MONEY KEY: Contributions from in-state opponents includes monies given to deciding members of the Finance Committee, Legislative Budget Board, and Senate members who spoke against TxRC: Lt Gov. Dan Patrick, Senator Jane Nelson, Senator Joan Huffman, Senator Paul Bettencourt, Senator Kelly Hancock, Senator Lois Kolkhorst, Senator Robert Nichols, Senator Charles Schwertner, Senator Kel Seliger, Senator John Whitmire, Rep. Matt Krause, Senator Craig Estes, Senator Donna Campbell.

    $387,074: EMPOWER TEXANS (Rep. Krause plaintiff to lawsuit against TxRC, Amd #251 to abolish the TxRC.)
    $203,058: TILMAN FERTITTA & LOCKE LORD (700M Golden Nugget opened 12-8-14)
    $175,000: KICKAPOO of EAGLE PASS (Plaintiff to lawsuit against TxRC)


    Mar 17 – Reports surface regarding passage of casino gambling in Texas and their positive effect on Texas horse racing.
    Mar 26 – Dan Patrick: $10,000 Locke Lord
    Apr 07 – Dan Patrick: $50,000 Tilman Fertitta
    Apr 29 – Dan Patrick: $1,000 Locke Lord
    May 01 – Joan Huffman: $1,000 Locke Lord
    May 02 – Dan Patrick: $3,058 Tilman Fertitta
    May 08 – Dan Patrick: $50,000 Tilman Fertitta
    May 08 – Dan Patrick: $350,000 Empower Texans

    Jun 08 – Reports surface the struggling Texas race tracks may amend the Texas Racing Act to include HRTs.
    Jun 19 – John Whitmire: $25,000 Tilman Fertitta

    Jun 17 – TxRC proposes to approve historical racing terminals at race tracks and requested a public opinion.

    Jul 25 – Senate Republican Caucus voiced opposition to a proposal that would allow a controversial new form of betting on horse races in Texas: Brian Birdwell, John Carona, Kevin Eltife, Troy Fraser, Donna Campbell, Robert Deuell, Craig Estes, and Kelly Hancock.

    Jul 27 – A total of nearly 13,000 comments were received during that period in the form of letters, emails, faxes and petition signatures. Approximately 9,900 comments (76 percent) were in favor of the proposed rules with around 3,100 (24 percent) opposed.

    Jul 28 – Five Republican nominees for seats in the Texas Senate voiced opposition to TxRC: Paul Bettencourt of Houston, Konni Burton of Colleyville, Bob Hall of Edgewood, Don Huffines of Dallas and Van Taylor of Plano.

    Jul 28 – State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa writes letter in support of the Texas Racing Commission.
    Aug 06 – Dan Patrick: $10,000 Locke Lord
    Aug 08 – Dan Patrick: $10,000 Kickapoo

    Aug 28 – Rep Matt Krause files suit against the racing commission.
    Aug 28 – Joan Huffman: $25,000 Tilman Fertitta

    Aug 29 – TxRC votes to amend the Texas Racing Act to allow Historical Racing Terminals.
    Sep 04 – Joan Huffman: $275 Locke Lord for “blast email service”
    Sep 10 – Paul Bettencourt: $5,000 Tilman Fertitta
    Sep 10 – Kelly Hancock: $10,000 Tilman Fertitta
    Sep 15 – Jane Nelson: $1,000 Locke Lord
    Sep 15 – Charles Schwertner: $2,500 Tilman Fertitta

    Sep 16 – The Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, Thompson Allstate Bingo Supplies, Inc., Moore Supplies, Inc. and a coalition of bingo groups sued the racing commission in Austin, Texas.

    Sep 18 – Judge David Evans of Tarrant County dismisses Rep. Matt Krause’s lawsuit against the TxRC.
    Sep 24 – Dan Patrick: $25,000 Tilman Fertitta
    Sep 25 – Dan Patrick: $50,000 Kickapoo
    Sep 25 – Joan Huffman: $1,000 Locke Lord
    Sep 25 – Craig Estes: $10,000 Kickapoo
    Sep 26 – Matt Krause: $5,000 Kickapoo

    Oct 04 – Judge Livingston declined to issue a verdict against the racing commission, court date reset for Nov 10th.
    Oct 04 – Dan Patrick: $1,000 Locke Lord
    Oct 06 – Charles Schwertner: $5,000 Kickapoo
    Oct 13 – Kel Seliger: $5,000 Kickapoo
    Oct 30 – Robert Nichols: $5,000 Kickapoo
    Nov 01 – Jane Nelson: $10,000 Kickapoo
    Nov 02 – Joan Huffman: $10,000 Kickapoo

    Nov 04 – Texas primary election results show a significant shift in Republicans winning their campaigns.
    Nov 07 – Jane Nelson: $2,500 Tilman Fertitta

    Nov 10 – Judge Lora Livingston ruled the racing commission exceeded their authority and ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
    Nov 14 – Donna Campbell: $5,000 Kickapoo
    Nov 19 – Matt Krause: $37,074 Tim Dunn – Empower Texans

    Dec 08 – Tilman Fertitta opens $700M Golden Nugget casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Texans hold 50,000 to 60,000 player cards.

    Dec 12 – Senator Craig Estes files Bill #364 to abolish the Texas Racing Commission.
    Dec 12 – Lois Kolkhorst: $5,000 Kickapoo
    Dec 13 – Dan Patrick: $50,000 Kickapoo
    Dec 13 – Paul Bettencourt: $5,000 Kickapoo


    Jan 29 – TxRC Chairman, Robert Schmidt submits the commission’s 2014 Annual Report to Governor Abbot which outlines the 50% decline in total dollars wagered from the year 2000 to current date.

    Feb 25 – Senate Finance Committee meeting with the Texas Racing Commission’s President Robert Schmidt questioned for 40 minutes by Senate. Senator Nelson states you get “zero” funding = Rider 7.

    Mar 28 – Rep Matt Krause introduces Amendment 251 to defund the Texas Racing Commission.

    Apr 01 – Texas Legislatures pass the HB1 $220.9 billion budget. Rep. Krause was met with strong opposition from House members. His Amendment 251 to the TXRC budget was not successful. However, Senator Nelson’s Rider 7 was passed but it was never voted on by all of the House members as a line item.

    April 01 – Dan Patrick, with the help of Joan Huffman’s bill is successful in defunding the Political Corruption Unit.

    June 05 – Joan Huffman has ethics violation filed against her for not disclosing all of her and her husband’s income.

    Aug 13 – Sen. Jane Nelson issues statement against the TxRC stating members are rogue: “the Legislature can decide whether an agency should continue to exist at all”.

    Aug 25 – Texas Racing Commission has an open meeting to discuss the HRTs. The vote is 4 to 3 in favor of not repealing the amended rules passed on Aug 29th, 2014.

    Aug 31 – Members of the Legislative Budget Board could not reach a decision. All race tracks in Texas close their doors. No formal vote was ever taken. Deciding members: Dan Patrick, Jane Nelson, John Otto, Joe Straus recused himself.

    Sep 02 – The LBB has informed Texas Racing Commission Executive Director Chuck Trout that the agency has been approved to immediately resume operations for the next 90 days, or until November 30, 2015. This action by the LBB was subsequently approved by the Governor. All TxRC offices are now open for regular business hours.

    Current Date – TxRC has not received 100% funding approval. The future of Texas racing is uncertain.
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