January 12, 2020

Texas House Democrat Gets Jump on Competition
in Open Speaker Race that Hinges on 2021 Majority

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

A veteran Democratic lawmaker launched a race for Texas House speaker on Sunday as the first candidate out of the gates in an open competition for the post that the party with the majority will expect to control after a 2020 election that could end almost two decades of GOP rule in the lower chamber.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia revealed at a meeting of the Stonewall Democrats in his hometown of Dallas that he's running for the powerful position that Republican Speaker Dennis Bonnen is giving up after being snarled in a clandestine scheme aimed at eliminating colleagues at the polls this year.

A 15-year House veteran who leads the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, Anchia's bid for the gavel comes as no surprise in a chamber where he could expect to be one of several frontrunners if Democrats oust the GOP from the helm in the November general election with a net gain of eight or nine seats.

The list of potential contenders in the Bonnen replacement battle could include State Rep. Senfronia Thompson - a Houston Democrat who's served in the west wing of the statehouse longer than anyone except former GOP Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland.

Democratic State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio has appeared to be jockeying for months behind the scenes in an attempt to lay the groundwork for a speaker's campaign in a contest that won't be decided officially until the opening day of the regular session a year from now.

State Reps. Richard Raymond of Laredo and Joe Moody of El Paso have been mentioned as possible candidates for the coveted leadership job in the event of a Democratic majority in 2021. Democratic State Reps. Donna Howard of Austin, Tracy King of Uvalde and Oscar Longoria of Mission would all appear to be formidable candidates if any one or all of them decided to set their sights on the speaker's office.

But the competition among the Democrats will be unfolding at the same time that a slmultaneous fight for speaker is under way across the aisle where GOP State Rep. Walter "Four" Price of Amarillo could be a slight early favorite in a potential of Republican competitors that could feature State Reps. Drew Darby of San Angelo, Tan Parker of Flower Mound and Phil King of Weatherford.

Republican State Reps. John Frullo of Lubbock, Dan Huberty of Humble, Lyle Larson of San Antonio and Chris Paddie of Marshall also could have shots at the leadership position as a quartet of lawmakers who teamed up with Price in a confrontation with Bonnen that brought an abrupt end last year to a desperation bid by the incumbent to survive the self-inflicted wounds that he'd suffered from the targeting scandal.

Bonnen - a Lake Jackson legislator who's halfway through a debut term - staked his claim to the gavel a few days after the 2018 general election with a bipartisan base of support in the first open speaker's race in 26 years. Republican Joe Straus had led the House for 10 years as the speaker before Bonnen took over at the start of the 2019 regular session.

Anchia jumped out to a head-start on the potential opposition when he informed Democratic activists in the party's most prominent LGBT organization in the Dallas area that he'd be taking aim at the speaker's office.

Anchia had been Straus and Bonnen allies in the job that he's had as the chairman of the International Relations & Economic Development Committee during the past four regular sessions. But Anchia has sided with partisan Democrats frequently in his role as the MALC chief.

Anchia, who entered the House in 2005, doesn't have cause for concern about a re-election race in a heavily-Democratic district where two Republicans are dueling for the right to challenge him this fall.

more to come ...


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