Phelan received 143 votes compared to Tinderholt’s three.
In a poll of the Texas House GOP Caucus, Phelan overwhelmingly defeated Tinderholt by a vote of 78 to 6. However, Tinderholt had pledged in an interview with The Texan the day of his announcement that he would take his candidacy to the House floor on the first day of the session.
Once again, Phelan has the power to appoint committee chairmanships and the final say in what legislation is placed on the calendar.
Some grassroots Republicans and Tinderholt have criticized Phelan for appointing Democrats during the 87th Legislature, a practice the speaker defended as a custom of good will and bipartisanship that sets Austin apart from Washington, D.C.
The morning the legislative session began, some Texans could be seen at the Capitol wearing bright red shirts that read in all capital letters, “Ban Democrat Chairs.”
The speaker’s race was marked by its fair share of GOP infighting. Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) and others outside the Legislature even filed a lawsuit against the Texas Ethics Commission over rules that prevent personal spending on a Texas House speaker race.
Reps. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) and Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) filed their own motions in the lawsuit contending the speaker’s race is a matter to be confined to the Texas House.
Earlier this month, Phelan refuted claims by former President Trump that pro‐life Republicans were at fault for disappointing results in the 2022 midterm elections.
“GOP has lost control of the Senate THREE cycles in a row & it was not the fault of the pro-life movement,” Phelan wrote. “It was [Trump’s] hand picked candidates who underperformed & lost ‘bigly’. May 2023-24 bring the GOP new leadership PROUD to protect the unborn.”
The remarks may foreshadow how Phelan will handle possible legislation to add exceptions to the Human Life Protection Act of 2021, which prohibits virtually all abortions except to save the life of the mother or prevent serious bodily impairment.
Secretary of State Jane Nelson called the House to order and reflected on her time in the Capitol.
“Thirty years ago I sat exactly where you are on my first opening day in my first legislative session,” Nelson said.
After the clerk called the roll, Nelson declared a quorum was present and members took the oath of office.
The next fight on the floor of the Texas House will likely be over the chamber’s rules governing its proceedings.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."