Rep. Phil King announces challenge to Straus as speaker

Rep. Phil King, a 10-term representative from Weatherford, who is in the middle of pack ideologically among Republicans in the Texas House, announced Friday that he will seek to replace Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, as speaker in 2019.

“Over the past several months, many of my colleagues have encouraged me to consider running for speaker,” King said in a statement released by his office late Friday afternoon. “In order to have an open discussion concerning the future of our Texas House, I have filed the required paperwork to declare my candidacy for speaker.”

“I have served in the House under the leadership of three different speakers,” King said. “What I have learned is that the role of the presiding officer is not to control the House, but rather to facilitate, assist and empower all members to represent their districts, promote their ideas, and implement their policies.”

“Between now and January 2019, I look forward to sitting down with my colleagues and sharing my vision for leading the Texas House as a true servant leader,” he said.

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King’s announcement is further evidence that Straus’ plan to serve a history-making sixth term as speaker in the next session is not a done deal.

In recent weeks, more than 50 Texas Republican Party county committees have approved resolutions expressing a lack of confidence in Straus and a desire to see the House Republican Caucus replace him in the next session.

In the immediate aftermath of the special session this summer, Gov. Greg Abbott said he too thought that the House needed either a new leader or a different approach from Straus.

Abbott viewed Straus as a thorn in the side of his 20-point agenda, especially when it came to property tax reform and legislation to keep localities from establishing transgender friendly bathroom policies. Abbott suggesting he might get involved in GOP primaries on behalf of candidates disposed to replacing Straus as speaker.

Luke Macias, a Republican campaign consultant whose clients include many of the members of the conservative Texas House Freedom Caucus, said that King’s announcement signaled that Straus has not nailed down support from a majority of House Republicans. Macias predicted that King won’t be the last member to enter the race.

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