87th LegislatureState HouseIntra-GOP War of Words Permeates Speaker’s Race Before 87th Session

Texas GOP Chair Allen West has vociferously opposed Rep. Dade Phelan as the likely speaker for the 87th Legislative Session.
November 10, 2020
The same day legislators began filing bills for the 87th Legislature, figureheads within the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) traded barbs about the coming session — and namely regarding the man likely to spearhead the lower chamber in the state legislature.

Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) announced last week that he secured the votes to become the next speaker of the Texas House. Shortly thereafter, his only remaining competition, Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) withdrew from the race.

On Monday, Texas Republican Party Chair Allen West disbursed an email stating, “[T]he Republican Party of Texas will not support, nor accept, State Rep. Dade Phelan as Speaker of the Texas House.”

Not mincing words, West continued, “Texas does not need a Republican political traitor, not at a time when the two diverging philosophies of governance are this lucid.”

Pointing back to the 2019 session, he added, “The Republican Party of Texas will not sit back idly and watch leftist Democrats be placed as Committee Chairmen who will undermine, kill, our legislative priorities, as happened in the 86th Texas legislative session.”

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Last year, multiple pieces of conservative legislation died in committees chaired by Democrats — given their posts by GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) — including big-ticket items like the “Heartbeat Bill.”

Reactions to West’s staunch and punitive message of opposition to a Speaker Phelan permeated social media.

Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) tweeted, “Hey [Allen West] — calling [Dade Phelan] a ‘traitor’ is petulant and patently untrue. Stop the childish name-calling and work with your fellow Republicans to make the 87th #txlege a resounding success for conservatives and for all Texans. Lead with us…Don’t lie about us!”

Further calling for a ceasefire, Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) added, “Dade Phelan is a good man. Don’t care for a couple of folks that he hangs out with but we need to stop the infighting. Mr. West needs to go back to Florida after suing GA and now making negative comments about the presumptive GOP Speaker. The session is going to be tough enough.”

Rep. James White (R-Hillster) stated, “Dade is/has been a life-long Republican. He is not a ‘traitor.’ I don’t think the Republicans in Jefferson & Orange counties elect ‘traitors.’ He is a successful businessman and community leader in Beaumont.”

West criticized the “guarded smoke-filled room” behind the scenes positioning in the early part of the speaker race and further took aim at Phelan before he had fully secured the position.

On Lubbock radio host Chad Hasty’s show on Tuesday, Bonnen took a parting shot at West. “He needs a one way ticket back to Florida,” Bonnen said — further calling him “a petulant child trying to get his parents’ attention.”

Diverging from his predecessor, West has liberally levied criticism at GOP elected officials since he took over RPT. Previous chair James Dickey was reticent to openly decry Republicans during the 2019 “Super Bowl Session” despite calls to from the grassroots sect of the party.

Since assuming the chairmanship, not only has West rhetorically sparred with Texas Republicans such as Governor Greg Abbott, but he’s joined lawsuits against them.

In July, West unseated Dickey by a wide margin at the online RPT convention — which was marred by technical difficulties on top of legal fights.

The speakership opened this interim after Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) declined to run for re-election due to the quid pro quo exposed by a secret recording of a meeting he held with Empower Texans President Michael Quinn Sullivan.

The Texas legislature is scheduled to convene on January 12, 2021 for the 87th Session.

For a timeline on the speaker’s race, visit here.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.