January 15, 2020
Early Fight for Speaker Features Clash
Between Factions that Scandal Fueled
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
The battle lines have been drawn among the ruling Republicans in an open Texas House leadership race with several lawmakers who played major roles in GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen's rise to power in one corner and a group of colleagues who turned against him across the ring.
The plotting within the majority party's ranks has intensified in January at the same time a separate competition is under way across the aisle at a Capitol where the Democrats in the House will expect to elect one of their own as the new speaker in 2021 if they take the chamber back at the polls in November.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas has vaulted into the number two spot among the Democrats in the Capitol Inside Texas House Speaker Race Rankings for 2021 after declaring himself to be a candidate for the coveted leadership post this past weekend.
Anchia, who wields considerable sway at the Mexican American Legislative Caucus chairman, has a head-start on potential rivals as the only representative to announce as a candidate for speaker.
But State Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston is still ranked first among the Democrats who appear to have the best shots at the gavel in the event of a Democratic majority in a leadership election that's still a year away.
State Rep. Walter "Four" Price still has the top spot on the list of potential GOP contenders for the position that Bonnen just won a year ago and isn't seeking again after getting tripped up in a targeting scandal. Price appears to have the best odds in the competition's early stages as a former high-ranking Bonnen lieutenant who teamed up last year with a group of Republican allies in a power play that pulled the rug out from under the speaker's bid to survive the problems that he created for himself.
But the faction that features Price as the senior member could face substantial resistance from a cadre of House Republicans who are viewed as Bonnen loyalists with State Reps. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth, Drew Springer of Muenster and John Cyrier of Lockhart as the apparent choreographers with no consensus candidate at this point.
Goldman - the second highest rated Republican in the speaker speculation size up - has been regarded as a possible candidate in the last speaker's race before he and Springer helped Bonnen assemble a winning coalition down the stretch. The Bonnen campaign had been conceived at a meeting in Cyrier's private office.
Bonnen set the stage for a bitter showdown between the competing GOP factions in the race to replace him when he busted Republican State Rep. Chris Paddie of Marshall as the chairman of the Sunset Advisory Commission while appointing Cyrier in his place.
Paddie had been one in a handful of House Republicans who abandoned Bonnen in a coordinated move that prompted the speaker to cancel a hometown re-election race the following day.
The group of GOP lawmakers who Bonnen and his allies view as turncoats included State Reps. John Frullo of Lubbock, Dan Huberty of Humble, Lyle Larson of San Antonio and Price.
Paddie is ranked third on the potential speaker contender list with the demotion from Bonnen as a badge of honor that could help attract support from Democrats who could swing the race if Republicans remain divided and fail to unite behind a consensus candidate.
Both sides in a growing intramural standoff are attempting to build support with the lure of potential donations from separate political action committees that are ostensibly raising money for a majority protection initiative that appears to be a thinly-veiled guise for a brewing leadership fight.
But the internal GOP wrangling could be an exercise in eventual futility if the Democrats reclaimed the House majority with a net gain of eight or nine seats in 2020 after flipping a dozen districts from red to blue in the last election cycle.
The prevailing sentiment is that the next speaker will be a member of the party that controls the most House seats after the November vote.