A state representative from East Texas is seeking to be the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, announced Monday that he would seek the position presiding over the lower chamber in the Texas Legislature.

Clardy represents District 11, which includes the counties of Cherokee, Nacogdoches and Rusk. Portions of Bullard, Rusk and Troup are among the several cities included in the district.

Clardy said in an interview Monday that he decided to file a notice of his candidacy for speaker after several colleagues in the House talked with him over the summer and encouraged him to run.

“As I’ve talked to my colleagues … I really feel like I’m the best-qualified person for the job, but more than that, I think I’m a person who works really well with my colleagues in the House,” Clardy said.

The 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives elect the speaker, whose major duties are to preside over floor debates and assign members to legislative committees.

The speaker position is open for the first time since 1993 because Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is not seeking the position again. The House will need to have a new speaker for the 2019 regular session, which starts in January.

Clardy is running against Reps. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound; Phil King, R-Weatherford; John Zerwas, R-Richmond, and Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, according to the Texas Tribune.

Clardy said in the interview he has leadership skills that would help bring strong personalities together in the Texas House to pass important legislation— including changing the education finance system.

“It’s not so much that I have this genius for directing policy,” he said. “I think I have a skillset to work with other power members and develop (them). That’s a different skill.

“I know that I’m a leader, but I also know that I’m respected among them and, again, I think there’s mutual respect and that’s going to foster a very positive working environment,” he said.

He said the next speaker needs to provide property tax relief, which he said means education finance reform. He said the state needs to find efficiencies in government that would allow it to take on a larger responsibility in funding public education.

“We do that by fixing the public education finance system and taking that burden off of the individual property taxpayer and have the state step up and meet its responsibility and pay for an essential service that is required under the Texas Constitution,” Clardy said.

“Nobody said this was going to be easy, but we’ve got so many talented people in the Texas House who are committed to public education, as am I, and there’s a way to do this within our means, but where the state shoulders the burden for the bulk of the cost of public education, and we can accomplish this through some efficiencies.”

Clardy also said he can relate to people throughout Texas. He pointed to his personal life, growing up in West Texas, having his children born in Tyler and Dallas and living in Nacogdoches.

As a representative, Clardy said he is proud of the bills he has passed to help his district. He pointed to work benefiting the Rusk Airport, Rusk State Hospital and some road-widening projects.

Through legislation, Clardy also helped facilitate the creation of the four-year dental hygiene program at Tyler Junior College and the pharmacy school at the University of Texas at Tyler. He also helped pass legislation that allows Tyler hospitals to receive more federal Medicaid money.

“That’s something I’ve been really proud to see develop — a really cohesive team effort to work together for the betterment of all of East Texas,” Clardy said. “We need that reasonable approach.”

Clardy said his race for speaker is just beginning, and he started reaching out to colleagues on Monday to see if they would support him. He said the results have been positive.

“I feel a real sense of momentum that’s building,” he said. “There’s 150 members, and I feel very confident that we’re going to get to there where we have that key majority.”

“This isn’t about me — and I mean this sincerely — it’s that we need to have a leader in a position to go in through the fall and into January,” when the next legislative session starts, he said.

“I want to be the catalyst,” he said. “I want to be the person who helps us be even better. I’m excited about getting started.”

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

Government Reporter

Erin came to Tyler from Vermont, where she worked for VTDigger.org and previously the Rutland Herald. She received her B.A. in Economics and Spanish from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she also attended journalism school.

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