Confirming what might be the worst-kept secret in state politics, state Rep. Drew Darby told the media Friday he intends to run for speaker of the Texas House in the 2019 legislative session.
In profiles of each of the other five announced candidates done by The Texas Monitor beginning in March, candidates and political experts assumed it was only a matter of time before Darby, R-San Angelo, made his intentions known.
The others who have filed declarations of candidacy with the Texas Ethics Commission are Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches; Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; Phil King, R-Weatherford; Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound; and John Zerwas, R-Richmond.
“After prayerful consideration, discussions with my family, and at the urging of my House colleagues,” Darby said in a statement emailed to media members Friday, “I filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission to start a speaker campaign for the 86th Legislative Session.
“In the coming weeks, I plan to visit with every House member to discuss the priorities of their district and how the Texas House of Representatives can work together to put forward good policies to keep Texas the number one state to live, work and raise a family.”
Since he joined the House for the 2007 session, Darby has gathered power as a close political ally of outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus. In the last session, Darby chaired both the Energy Resources Committee and the Select Committee on State & Federal Power & Responsibility as well as serving on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Late last year, New Leadership, a conservative political action committee, announced that Darby was among a “Dirty Dozen,” Republicans either closely tied to Straus or considered insufficiently conservative to merit reelection.
As he was in 2016, however, Darby is running unopposed in the general election on Nov. 6.
Darby is also one of three speaker candidates — Clardy and Zerwas are the others — who have so far declined to sign a pledge card circulated by the House Republican Caucus promising to vote in the speaker election for the candidate chosen by the caucus.
The Republicans changed their rules in December to require that a preferred candidate be chosen in a caucus vote, but that vote isn’t binding in the general election.
Conservative leaders have voiced concerns that, without a unified choice, moderate Republicans are free to make deals with Democrats that might result in the selection of a moderate like Darby, Clardy or Zerwas, repeating the elevation of the moderate Straus to speaker in 2009.
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].