East Texas state reps Ashby, Paddie throw hat in ring to be Speaker of Texas House

East Texas state reps Ashby, Paddie throw hat in ring to be Speaker of Texas House

AUSTIN, Texas (TEXAS TRIBUNE) -A trio of Republicans declared their candidacies for speaker of the Texas House on Thursday, becoming the first from their party to enter the race.

State Reps. Trent Ashby of Lufkin, Chris Paddie of Marshall and John Cyrier of Lockhart join two Democrats in seeking the gavel: Senfronia Thompson of Houston and Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio. More candidates are expected to file, perhaps after the Nov. 3 election once it’s clear which party will be in control of the chamber.

In statements, both Ashby and Cyrier pointed to the legislative session beginning in January — and the challenges state lawmakers will all but certainly have to tackle — to help make their pitch for why they’re the best candidate for the job.

“Given the collective challenges we will face in upcoming legislative session, as we continue our battle with COVID-19 and work to balance a budget despite revenue challenges, it is critically important that the next Speaker fosters the trust and cooperation necessary to overcome these challenges and deliver the results that all Texans expect and deserve,” Ashby, who has served in the House since 2013, said.

Cyrier, who has served in the House since 2015, said the session “will be a demonstration of Texans' resilience.”

“My top priority as speaker will be to work with all members of the House and build consensus during what is sure to be a challenging session,” Cyrier said.

Paddie, who has served in the lower chamber since 2013, did not immediately release a statement about his bid.

Candidates are vying to replace Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who will retire after serving one term thanks to a political scandal last year.

Thompson, the longest-serving woman and Black person in the history of the Texas Legislature, filed Friday to run for the gavel. Over the past two days, two coalitions — the lower chamber’s Harris County Democratic delegation and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus — have announced their support for Thompson’s speaker bid, putting the number of members publicly backing her candidacy at 23. The winning candidate will need a majority of votes.

Thompson’s number of supporters, of course, could change after Election Day. Democrats need to gain nine seats in the 150-member chamber to gain control of the House for the first time in nearly two decades. Dozens of House seats are widely viewed as competitive.

The House will vote for a new speaker when the Legislature convenes in January for its 87th legislative session, a 140-day stretch that will feature a difficult budget-writing task due to the economic shortfall from the coronavirus pandemic. The Legislature is also expected to take up redistricting and several other challenging issues next year.

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