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Southeast Texas leaders react to AG Ken Paxton calling for House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign

Neither Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Joe Evans or Texas State Representative for District 22 Christian Manuel think Dade Phelan should resign.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday called for House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign.

In a tweet from his personal account, Paxton said Phelan was recently "in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication" during a recent session.

Paxton's demand comes days after videos of Phelan slurring words while presiding over the House were shared across social media.

The video in question was taken Friday, May 19, 2023. 

Here's a video of the incident that Paxton is referring to:

Here is Paxton's complete statement:

"After much consideration, it is with profound disappointment that I call on Speaker Dade Phelan to resign at the end of this legislative session. Texans were dismayed to witness his performance presiding over the Texas House in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication. His conduct has negatively impacted the legislative process and constitutes a failure to live up to his duty to the public. Texans were relying on the House to pass critical conservative priorities including protecting the integrity of our elections and preventing Chinese spies from controlling Texas land. His failures as Speaker have created a credibility crisis for all Republican candidates and for our entire Party. While I hope Speaker Phelan will get the help he needs, he has proven himself unworthy of Texans' trust and incapable of leading the Texas House."

Phelan is a Beaumont native republican who serves as a rep for House District 21, which covers Jefferson and Orange Counties. 

District 21 covers Jefferson and Orange counties in Southeast Texas.

This will be his fourth term since assuming office in 2015. State representatives serve 2-year terms.

Phelan was first elected to the Texas House of representatives in 2014. Prior to election as Speaker, Phelan served as Chair of the House Committee on State Affair, as Vice-Chair of the Natural Resources, and as a member of the Calendars Appropriations, and Election Committee.

Cait Wittman, Communications Director for Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, has provided a statement: 

This afternoon, the Texas House General Investigating Committee directed the issuance of a preservation letter to the Office of the Attorney General, the state agency that is the subject of “Matter A”, to ensure that all evidence relevant to the committee’s inquiry is not destroyed or concealed.

Chairman Murr announced that pursuant to the committee’s hearing notification posted last Friday, the General Investigating Committee will meet in a public hearing on “Matter A” tomorrow, May 24, 2023, at 8:00 AM to hear the presentation of the evidence in “Matter A”.

A copy of the Committee’s broadcast is archived here.

Committee minutes and official House records indicate the committee has been investigating “Matter A” since March – and the motives for and timing behind Paxton’s statement today couldn’t be more evident.

As outlined in the attached preservation letter, the Committee is conducting a thorough examination of the events tied to the firing of the whistleblowers in addition to Ken Paxton’s alleged illegal conduct. Committee minutes show that subpoenas have been issued. Mr. Paxton’s statement today
amounts to little more than a last ditch effort to save face.

Texas State Representative for District 22, Christian Manuel (D), has come to the defense of Phelan.

Here is Manuel's complete statement to 12News: 

"These are unfair and unfounded attacks from people who have stated their animus for the speaker already. Also, unless they were on the floor I think their attacks are not appropriate and are slander. We are working more than 16 hour days, and the speaker is only human and is allowed to get tired. The video was taken out of context; as we can see the Speaker speaking clearly in the following frame."

Manuel tells 12News he was on the floor at the time all of this was happening. 

"I was on the floor at the time all this was happening. I was packing up my bags getting ready to go for me I had never seen the speaker drinking," he said. 

Manuel is calling the incident "political theatre".

"This is a feud that has been going back since before the legislative session started one is a former member. There are other groups that just do not want speaker Phelan to be the speaker," he said.

The District 22 rep simply says talking consistently can get tiring. 

"If you look at the frame that is directly after that he's speaking clearly coherently," Manuel said.  

Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Joe Evans has also spoken up in defense of Phelan.

"To me knowing him the way I know him, I know those are outlandish allegations. He's like a brother to me. I know that's not my brother's behavior," Evans said. 

Evans says if you've been presiding over the house for 14 years, you probably would've been stumbling over words just as Phelan has.

"I'm disappointed in not only his constituents who have given life to this story, but i'm very disappointed in the AG, He's a person who understands first-hand what it is to be accused," Evans said. 

Neither of them think Phelan should resign.

Manuel is optimistic that Phelan will give his own side of the story soon.

"I think he'll put out a statement. I don't see why he would run from something that is why we have a general investigation committee, but I can't speak for him," Manuel said.  

Beaumont native, former Congressman Nick Lampson (D) who once served as a rep for the 22nd Congressional District and the 9th Congressional District of Texas posted a message publicly to his Facebook in defense of Phelan.

Here is Lampson's complete statement:

As a Texan it is disheartening to see a top ranking official assassinate the character of another out of spite and political sabotage. Attorney General Ken Paxton has called on House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign alleging he was intoxicated while presiding over the Texas House. He went on to accuse Speaker Phelan of failing conservatives and not living up to his duty as a public office holder. Of all people, AG Paxton is the last person who should be throwing stones. As a Democrat and former officeholder, it is refreshing to have a Speaker that chooses to build bridges rather than walls among Texans. Thank you Speaker Phelan for being that person. We need more consensus builders and pragmatic leadership among our ranks. The extreme politics of Paxton must go!

The office of U.S. Congressman Randy Weber, who represents the 14th District of Texas, has declined to comment. 

Paxton's office also sent this letter to Texas House of Representatives General Investigations Committee Chairman Andrew Murr. In the letter, he called for an investigation into Phelan "for violation of House rules, state law, and for conduct unbecoming his position." He said Phelan presided over the House of Representatives in "an obviously intoxicated state.":

FBI investigation into Paxton

Paxton is currently in the middle of an FBI investigation related to criminal conduct and indictments. He also recently agreed to a $3.3 million settlement with whistleblowers in his office that was going to be paid by tax dollars. Phelan opposed taxpayers paying for the settlement.

After Paxton's tweet calling for Phelan's resignation, a letter was sent to Paxton directing him to preserve all documentation regarding the termination of the whistleblowers.

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