North Texas Republican enters House speaker race

March 08, 2018
  • By Johnathan Silver
  • American-Statesman Staff
Then-state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, left, and state Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, celebrate the end of the legislative session in the House Chamber on June 1, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

State Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, became the third Republican to enter the race for Texas House speaker Thursday.

Parker, who was first elected to the House in 2006, is chairman of the Investments and Financial Services Committee and sits on the Redistricting, and International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs committees.

Parker joins speaker candidates Phil King, R-Weatherford, and John Zerwas, R-Richmond. Current House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, announced in October he wouldn’t seek re-election.

“I am ready to continue to serve Texas in a new leadership role bringing a unified effort for the betterment of our members and this great state,” Parker said in a statement. “I am also very proud of my record as chair of the Texas House Republican Caucus and the trust my fellow colleagues placed in me over the past three years. During this time, we have focused upon the successes of our members while advancing the Republican principles that have built a stronger Texas.”

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Zerwas called Parker a friend, “capable” and a “demonstrable leader.”

“I think it’s appropriate that he be in the mix,” he said.

But Zerwas said his experience, which includes chairing the powerful House Appropriations Committee, qualifies him to be the next speaker. In the role, Zerwas said fostering good relationships with the Senate and Gov. Greg Abbott would be a priority. On the policy side, his priorities include focusing on education funding and the foster care system and promoting a business-friendly state.

“We need to make sure that we continue to make the state a very attractive environment for businesses to invest in,” he said.

In a statement, King also spoke to the collegiality among speaker candidates.

“During my campaign for speaker, I’ve previously visited with each of them and although we have different visions for the House, I know we will run for speaker as colleagues who share mutual respect,” he said.

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King’s platform includes limiting speakers to serving three terms and committee chairs to three consecutive terms, forcing debate on certain bills and making committee assignments known within 15 days of House rules being adopted.

Parker and King would be more likely choices than Zerwas, said Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor. Zerwas is connected to Straus, who alienated conservatives in the GOP and by the end of the last legislative session clearly was at odds with Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

“Zerwas is simply insufficiently conservative to be a viable candidate within the Republican caucus and far too tied to the Straus legacy to be a speaker candidate within the Republican caucus,” Jones said.

“Ideologically, (Parker and King are) perfect in that they represent a nice balance between the movement conservative wing as well as the centrist wing.”