December 1, 2020

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Republicans defend Dade Phelan for Texas House speaker after GOP chair calls him a ‘traitor’ – News – Austin American-Statesman

Republicans defended state Rep. Dade Phelan, a Beaumont Republican, after GOP Chairman Allen West said Monday the party would not support him as speaker of the Texas House.

Phelan has touted overwhelming support from members of both parties for the position, but West took issue with the fact that he had the backing of any Democrat.

“It is utterly absurd and demonstrably idiotic that any Republican would join with Democrats to lead our Republican majority (83-67) Texas state House,” he said in an email to supporters Monday. “Therefore, let me clearly state this: the Republican Party of Texas will not support, nor accept, state Rep. Dade Phelan as speaker of the Texas House. Texas does not need a Republican political traitor, not at a time when the two diverging philosophies of governance are this lucid.”

Speaking with Chad Hasty on KFYO in Lubbock on Tuesday, outgoing Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, blasted West, a former one-term congressman from Florida, for his remarks, saying the GOP chairman needs a one-way ticket back to Florida, but “the problem is that I don’t think Florida will take him.”

“Allen West is so off base and so out of line and so irresponsible. It is infuriating,” Bonnen said. “West should be considering his failures to do what his core job is, which is electing Republicans.”

The speaker position is up for grabs after Bonnen, facing pressure from his own party, said last year he would not seek reelection.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement Tuesday afternoon congratulating Phelan for securing the necessary votes to become the next House speaker.

Abbott said Phelan received more than 95% of the Republican caucus’ support.

“A strong conservative, Dade has a proven record of fighting for the lives and livelihoods of all Texans, having played a key role in authoring and passing critical legislation to bolster disaster relief and preparedness following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey,” Abbott said. “I look forward to working with him and all members of the House on commonsense, conservative legislation to create an even brighter future for the people of Texas.”

Other Republicans in the lower chamber tweeted their support of Phelan hours after West’s email.

Rep. Justin Holland, R-Rockwall, tweeted: “Perhaps, the gentleman from Florida needs a civics lesson in Texas politics.”

And Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, tweeted that “calling (Phelan) a ‘traitor’ is petulant and patently untrue.”

He continued: “Stop the childish name-calling and work with your fellow Republicans to make the 87th (Legislature) a resounding success for conservatives and for all Texans. Lead with us … Don’t lie about us!”

Rep. James White, R-Hillister, issued a slew of tweets in support of Phelan.

“Dade is/has been a life-long Republican,” he tweeted. “He is not a ‘traitor.’ I don’t think the Republicans in Jefferson and Orange counties elect ‘traitors.’ He is a successful businessman and community leader in Beaumont.”

House members will elect a new speaker at the beginning of the next legislative session, scheduled to start Jan. 12.

West, who is not a member of the Texas House, will not get to vote on the position.

Previous House speakers have received support from both sides of the aisle.

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