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State Rep. Eric Johnson, A Democrat, Declares Candidacy For Texas House Speaker

Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune
State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, on the House floor on May 6, 2017.

State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, announced early Wednesday that he filed the necessary paperwork to run for speaker of the Texas House, making him the first Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

In a statement sent to The Texas Tribune, Johnson pointed out that, if elected, he would be the first speaker under the age of 45 since former House Speaker Price Daniel, Jr. in 1973 and the first person of color to ever serve as speaker of the Texas House.

Johnson enters a speaker’s race that already includes three Republicans: Tan Parker of Flower Mound, Phil King of Weatherford and John Zerwas of Richmond.

"I'm in it, and I'm in it to win it," Johnson told the Tribune. 

Straus announced in October that he did not plan to run for re-election in 2018 — a move likely to shake up Texas politics for years. At the time, Johnson said that Texas would benefit from having a Democrat serve as House Speaker because “one-party rule has been the norm in Texas for far too long.”

Texas House members traditionally select a speaker on the first day of a legislative session. The next session will begin in January 2019, unless Gov. Greg Abbott calls a special session before then.

As a Democrat, Johnson would need bipartisan support to be elected speaker in the Republican-dominated House. Ahead of the next regular session, House Republicans agreed to select a speaker in their caucus and then vote as a bloc on the floor — a move that could completely cut out Democrats from picking the chamber’s next leader. Prior to the March 6 primaries, House Republicans pushed incumbents and candidates to sign a form promising to ultimately support the caucus pick. While Parker and King have signed the form, Zerwas has not.

Johnson, an attorney, is the vice chairman of the House Redistricting Committee and was recently chosen to serve as a delegate to the Democratic National Committee. He represents House District 100 in North Texas.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

Alex Samuels is a reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune and a journalism senior at The University of Texas at Austin. She came to the Tribune in fall 2016 as a newsletters fellow, writing the daily Brief and contributing to the water, education and health newsletters. Alex previously worked for USA Today College as both a collegiate correspondent and their first-ever breaking news correspondent. She has also worked for the Daily Dot where she covered politics, race, and social issues.