(The Center Square) – More county GOPs have passed resolutions supporting the censure of Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont.
Within the last week, the leaders of the Republican parties of Travis, Smith, Tarrant, and Harris counties were the latest to pass resolutions condemning Phelan. They joined Orange, Ellis, Dallas, and Montgomery counties, which passed resolutions in this summer.
The Orange County GOP, in Phelan’s legislative district, was the first to censure Phelan on July 13, 2023. They argue Phelan abused his power as speaker “by taking three or more actions during this current biennium that are either in opposition to the core principles of the Republican Party of Texas, or opposition to the Republican Party of Texas Legislative Priorities, or both.”
They also requested the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) to impose penalties on Phelan, including waiving an RPT rule requiring it to be neutral if Phelan were to run for reelection as a Republican, not providing him with financial support other than what is required by law; discouraging Phelan from running for reelection as a Republican; and publishing voter education materials that include its censure resolution verbatim.
After Orange, the Republican parties of Ellis, Dallas and Montgomery counties passed resolutions condemning Phelan. Ellis County GOP allege Phelan violated 8 of 12 RPT principles and abused the power of his office. Dallas County GOP’s resolution condemned the impeachment process, arguing it violated due process and the rule of law. Montgomery County GOP passed a resolution supporting Orange County GOP’s censure.
Censure resolutions are passed by executive committee members of county GOPs. A censure is a formal, public condemnation of a party official whose actions allegedly violate or oppose the party platform and/or legislative priorities. For the RPT to agree with a county censure, it must meet specific criteria, including originating from the official’s district being censored. County GOPs outside of Phelan’s district passed resolutions in support of Orange County GOP, but the RPT won’t vote on them according to RPT rules.
Censures serve as the only voice the grassroots have outside of the ballot box to condemn a party official and counter an incumbent’s advantage, party officials have explained to The Center Square.
Within less than a week, the county GOPs of Tarrant, Travis, Smith and Harris passed resolutions condemning Phelan and expressing support for Orange County GOP. They did so after the Texas Senate acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton on all impeachment charges. State representatives called on Phelan to resign after he pushed through the impeachment vote and voted to impeach Paxton shortly after. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick then called for an audit of all impeachment-related expenses, saying the House wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money.
Tarrant County GOP’s resolution cites examples of how Phelan ignored or opposed RPT priorities, appeared intoxicated while presiding over official House business, and condemned him for pushing through the impeachment vote and voting to impeach Paxton.
The Smith County GOP’s resolution appears to be the lengthiest. It cites examples of Phelan violating RPT principles, including appointing Democratic chairs, refers to a story The Center Square broke about an open bar set up outside the speaker’s office, and condemns Phelan for “forcing” House speakers to vote on impeachment.
Phelan’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment in response to whether or not he was drunk while presiding over official business or to explain how often an open bar is set up outside the House chamber while members are in session.
Travis County GOP’s resolution also condemns Phelan for abuse of power and for pushing through the impeachment vote and voting to impeach Paxton. Harris County’s resolution also expresses support for the Orange County GOP’s censure and also lists examples of how Phelan “abused the power of his office and his authority as Speaker.”
Harris County GOP Chairwoman Cindy Siegel said, “the growing number of county parties across Texas voting their displeasure with Speaker Phelan should not be taken with a grain of salt. The voting members of these parties, like our own, are the grassroots. They’re the backbone and the beating heart of the Republican Party.
“We must remember we have one common goal: defeating Democrats and stopping their harmful progressive agendas, and expanding the Republican Party. We must unite to make this happen.”
As long as he has been speaker, Phelan has remained unapologetic about appointing Democrats as committee chairs. More recently, he’s been resolute in his response to Paxton’s acquittal, saying Patrick and Republican senators who voted to acquit did so in an “orchestrated [plot] from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice.” He said the Senate didn’t do their job, and their “refusal to remove Ken Paxton from office … is … not the end of this matter.”
In response, RPT Chairman Matt Rinaldi said, “This Speaker has done more political damage to his own supporters than any in recent history. With this statement, he’s making clear that he doesn’t intend to change a thing unless he’s removed.”
More county GOP organizations are expected to pass similar resolutions condemning Phelan. The RPT is expected to vote on Orange County’s resolution later this year.