Trent Ashby and Chris Paddie become first two Republicans to file for Texas House speaker

State Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, and state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall. Credit: Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

Two 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 and Chris Paddie of Marshall 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 a statement, Ashby said he is "honored to have support from a growing number of my Republican colleagues to serve" as the next House speaker.

“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 said. "I look forward to continue working with members of the House to build a coalition that places character, integrity, and honor at the forefront of the Texas House of Representatives and provide all members with a platform to represent the needs of their districts."

Paddie 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 76 votes.

That number, 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.