The chairman of the Republican Party of Texas says state House members need to support their caucus in selecting a successor to retiring Speaker Joe Straus.
“The party’s base has very clearly said it is the will of the voters that representatives honor the selection of the caucus,” RPT Chairman James Dickey told The Texas Monitor.
“It would be a significant act of defiance and hubris for an elected representative to take a position opposed to the voters.”
With Straus’ departure from the House next year, a wide-open speaker contest is in the making. Two candidates — Rep. Phil King of Weatherford and John Zerwas of Richmond — have announced for the job. More, perhaps many more, are expected to enter the race.
Straus, R-San Antonio, relied on a solid bloc of minority Democrats to win and retain his position as head of the House. Dickey says Republicans need to be united now.
“When House candidates file for office, we will ask them whether they will commit or not commit to supporting the [speaker] choice of caucus,” Dickey revealed. The “pledge” is posted on TexasGOP.org.
A five-member working group of the caucus this month proposed a non-binding selection process. The House Caucus is scheduled to discuss the recommendation on Dec. 2.
“Republican representatives on the floor need to vote the results of the caucus,” Dickey said.
“This is not about a personality; it’s about the process,” he added. “The majority party determines the speaker as a group.”
Dickey said he is “glad it appears to be a healthy race. We believe in healthy competition.”
Meantime, the State Republican Executive Committee will meet — also on Dec. 2 — to consider primary election ballot measures. Among the items could be a ballot measure on the process for selecting the speaker of the House.
“It’s a significant enough issue that the SREC might decide to put it on the ballot,” Dickey said. The final ballot issues, and any applicable wording, would be decided by the SREC at the Dec. 2 meeting.
Neither King nor Zerwas responded to The Texas Monitor’s request for comment on the speaker selection discussions.