Joe Moody

State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, filed paperwork on Election Day seeking to be Texas’ next speaker of the House of Representatives.

If he is selected by House colleagues, Moody would be the first Latino to ever hold the powerful post, and the first El Pasoan since R.E. Thomason from 1919-21.

“I think we are at a time when we can make generational, transformational change in the Texas House. We’re also at a time we’re facing some of the most significant challenges. We’ve seen them all up front and close in El Paso,” Moody said in an interview with El Paso Matters. “And after being encouraged by many members in the Democratic caucus, I thought it was important to make sure that El Paso’s voice was in this conversation and at the table.”

Democrats are hoping to win control of the state House for the first time since the 2002 election. The party needs a gain of nine seats today to win control of the 175-member chamber from Republicans.

Moody said the party that wins control should choose the next speaker, and he fully expects the Democrats to prevail Tuesday.

“I do think by the end of the day, the Democrats will have taken the majority in the Texas House,” he said.

The speaker’s race is likely to be crowded, regardless of which party wins the majority.

The current speaker, Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, didn’t seek re-election to his House seat after being recorded attacking members of his own party and other House members.

In the 2019 legislative session, Bonnen chose Moody to serve as his speaker pro-tem, an influential House leadership position.

On the Democratic side, representatives from key parts of the party’s base — women, Blacks and Latinos — are expected to battle for the speaker’s gavel. Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, declared her candidacy two weeks ago.

Moody said the Texas-Mexico border region should have an influential voice in shaping state policy.

“There has been no place in the state that has been a larger target of incendiary political rhetoric. And if we are going to respond to that hate and to that negativity, we have to be a vocal piece of that response. And that response will be one of love and strength,” he said.

The El Pasoan said he can be a unifying influence in Texas leadership at a time when that is sorely needed.

“The divisions that we are facing have never been deeper. There is a lot of healing that will need to take place, healing from many things, from political rancor, from the pandemic and to violence that we’ve seen that’s visited our community in El Paso tragically,” Moody said. 

“And so if we are going to bridge those divides and bring people together, you need someone that has a history of healing and bringing people together. That is the work I’m proud to have done over a decade in the House, working in the minority, building bridges and ensuring that all voices are heard at the table.”

Moody, 39, is a lawyer currently working for WestStar Bank. His father, William Moody, is El Paso’s longest-serving district court judge and made three unsuccessful attempts for the Texas Supreme Court. His mother, Maggie Morales Moody, is a longtime educator and advocate for children with Down syndrome.

Joe Moody and his wife, Adrianne, have two young sons.

He was first elected to the House in 2008 but was defeated in his 2010 re-election bid by now-Mayor Dee Margo. Moody won the seat back in 2012 and has not been seriously challenged since. This year he faces Republican Jeffrey Lane, who lost to Moody in 2018 by more than 30 points.

In the House, he has been a leader on bipartisan criminal justice reform issues and efforts to decriminalize marijuana.

He served as political director for El Pasoan Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 U.S. Senate run.

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.