On the opening day of the 88th session of the Texas Legislature, Speaker Dade Phelan (R- Beaumont) was overwhelmingly re-elected Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. Phelan won the votes of 145 members, with challenger Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) earning only 3 votes.
Two members, State Representatives Richard Hayes (R- Denton) and Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson) were shown as not casting votes. Hayes later stated that he tried to vote for Phelan, but was shown as absent due to a malfunction with his voting machine.
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Tinderholt launched his campaign for Speaker on November 4, 2022, shortly before the 2022 general election. At a meeting of the Texas House Republican Caucus held on December 3, 2022, Phelan was chosen as the Caucus’ Endorsed Speaker Candidate over Tinderholt by a vote of 78-6.
Despite a lack of support from his fellow Republican colleagues, Tinderholt continued his candidacy for Speaker with the backing of a network of organizations with financial ties to the Defend Texas Liberty Political Action Committee. Tinderholt has received $18,000 in contributions from Defend Texas Liberty.
Speaker Phelan was placed into nomination by State Representative Cody Harris (R-Palestine), with seconding speeches delivered by State Representatives Angie Chen Button (R-Richardson), Tracy King (D-Batesville), John Lujan (R-San Antonio), Toni Rose (D-Dallas), and Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville). Harris’ and Slawson’s speeches, in particular, noted Phelan’s success in delivering on conservative legislation and fairness in presiding over the House chamber.
Tinderholt’s nomination speech was given by State Representive Bryan Slaton (R-Royce City), who was one of two votes against Phelan’s unopposed candidacy for Speaker in 2021. Slaton has received over $150,000 in contributions from Defend Texas Liberty.
Freshman State Representative Nate Schatzline (R- Fort Worth) gave a seconding speech for Tinderholt, which focused on Schatzline’s personal friendship with Tinderholt and Tinderholt’s support of Schatzline’s political endeavors. Schatzline has received over $168,000 from Defend Texas Liberty.
Former State Representative Jonathan Stickland took to Twitter after Phelan’s re-election, thanking Tinderholt, Slaton, and Schatzline for their votes and stating, “Everyone else will be held accountable for the outcome of this session in ways they’ve never experienced before.” Stickland’s company, Pale Horse Strategies, has been paid $829,260.17 by Defend Texas Liberty over the past year.
During the 2022 Republican Primary, Defend Texas Liberty opposed 20 incumbent Republican State Representatives who were seeking re-election. All 20 of the State Representatives who were targeted by Defend Texas Liberty were successfully re-elected.
In his remarks upon being re-elected, Speaker Phelan highlighted several conservative priorities for the legislative session.
The issue of property taxation was a key focus in Speaker Phelan’s speech. “Ever-increasing property taxes have led many to feel – year-in and year-out – that they are renting their property from the government”, said Speaker Phelan. “Like them, I believe that tax relief should be a priority. Time and time again, we have seen the Legislature provide some form of property tax relief, but to make it lasting, we must do something about runaway appraisals. Taxpayers deserve better.”
Protecting Texas children was another centerpiece of Speaker Phelan’s remarks. “Perhaps we have no greater task ahead of us than protecting those who will carry on what we have started – the children of Texas. I created the Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety last session to examine the issues facing our children. The threats to their safety are all too real: child trafficking, violence in schools, bad actors seeking to exploit their innocence, and social media companies that prey on the insecurities of children, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, sexualization, and indoctrination. Members, we must stand up for the children of Texas.”
Other issues highlighted by Speaker Phelan included reining in “rouge” District Attorneys, giving patients greater control over and better access to healthcare, and defending Texas against the threats posed by a “porous” border.