Dem Caucus Chief's Supporters in Close Vote
Could Have Better Odds for Plums from Phelan
January 12, 2021
The Austin beltway was buzzing on Tuesday night with speculation that Texas House Democrats who backed State Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie in a winning bid for re-election as the party caucus leader could have the best shot at slots on newly-elected Republican Speaker Dade Phelan's debut leadership team.
Turner appeared to be Phelan's personal choice in the rival party's caucus election that was ostensibly very close with State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio as the other major competitor.
That in effect made the House Democratic Caucus vote a referendum on Phelan on the eve of his election on Tuesday as the lower chamber's new top leader in a vote of 143-2 as the first act of business in the west wing of the Capitol after convening at noon in the 2021 regular session.
All of the 65 Democrats who were on the floor for opening day voted for Phelan en route to his elevation to the lower chamber's top leadership post that he'd locked down tentatively more than two months ago with an easy victory in the race to replace former GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen as his handpicked candidate.
Freshmen Republican State Reps. Jeff Cason of Bedford and Bryan Slaton of Royse City all but guaranteed their relegation to the end of the bench as the only dissenting votes. Slaton and Cason both owe a major debt of gratitude to a few major conservative donors with tea party ties and groups on the hard right that help them get elected.
A pair of Democrats who are sophomores now - State Reps. Michelle Beckley of Carrollton and Ana-Maria Ramos of Dallas - where shown as absent after deciding to stay at home for today's formalities amid concerns stemming fro the COVID-19 crisis. GOP State Rep. Drew Darby of San Angelo and Democratic State Rep. Tracy King of Uvalde also were absent for the speaker election today as possible covid targets in quarantine.
The Democratic Caucus vote in the chairman's competition was cast on secret ballots that make it difficult at this point to ascertain which of the minority party's representatives supported Turner over Martinez Fischer. But Phelan is said to know how the individual voting played out - and the initial conjecture at the statehouse is that some of the Democrats on Turner's team could be in line for committee chairs or other prestigious positions that the new speaker will fill.
State Reps. Toni Rose of Dallas and Oscar Longoria of Mission were elected on Monday as the Democratic Caucus first and second vice chairs respectively. State Rep. Lina Hidalgo of El Paso won the caucus treasurer's post for the upcoming session.
Democratic State Rep. Nicole Collier of Fort Worth can probably expect one of prime plums that go to members of the minority party after heaping praise on Phelan in one of three speeches that were made today on his behalf.
Phelan probably would be smart to appoint Martinez Fischer to lead a committee to minimize the chances of having him alienated as a trial lawyer who's one of the most aggressive Democrats on the west side of the rotunda for years.