What started out as an easy victory for incumbent Speaker Joe Straus is on the verge of becoming a street brawl. The broader implications for the Republican Party both during the session and at the 2012 election could be serious.
Here’s what we know so far:
Straus is still in the driver’sseat. The speaker’s race and other elections have one thing in common – all else being equal,bet on the incumbent.
Straus has released more than 100 names. At press time, fewer than 10 have publicly requested removal. Straus needs to keep 75 votes to win.
In past speaker’s races, the one who releases the list of names first is the one mostlikely to win.
Straus’s strongest argument is as follows: the GOP won more than 20 seats after three straight elections with a net loss of seats. Is this really a time to dump the leader?
That said, it hasn’t been the best of weeks for Straus. Explosive is the word for Rep. Bryan Hughes’s (R-Mineola) charge that a member of Straus’s leadership team told Hughes that they are working on drawing a redistricting map that eliminates Reps. Erwin Cain (R-Sulphur Springs) and Dan Flynn (R-Van).Straus said he doesn’t condone those kinds of tactics and didn’t authorize them and challenged Hughes to name the person who made that statement. Hughes obliged,and the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee is investigating.
Coincidentally, Hughes’ charge came about the same time as Rep. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) entered the race. Within minutes of Paxton’s entry, he won the endorsement of influential Dallas talk radio host Mark Davis. That afternoon, Paxton appeared on the radio with Houston GOP powerbroker and Sen. Dan Patrick.
Paxton’s entry is bad news for Straus for several reasons. The biggest is that Paxton is suburban with an impeccable conservative record. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) endorsed him immediately.The Republican Liberty Caucus – a group of libertarian-leaning Republicans – endorsed him as well.
Though Paxton is a strong conservative, he was not part of former Speaker Tom Craddick’s (R-Midland) inner circle. Republicans who are concerned about whether Straus will allow conservative bills like Voter ID and tough measures on property taxes and illegal immigration to come to the floor but don’t want a return to the top-down structure of the past now have a place to go.
On top of Paxton’s entry, Straus’s other opponent,Warren Chisum (R-Pampa),is continuing to get traction with the GOP grassroots by calling for the Speaker to be elected within the caucus.OnNov. 10 he called for Straus to release all his pledges.
Straus refused and blasted Chisum and his supporters for what Straus characterized as a “constant strain of negativity.”
Some of the anti-Straus folks underestimate how unhappy the rank-and-file was with the management of the House. By 2007, most Republican legislators were frustrated with what they viewed as a top-down management style from the speaker’s office. Reporters would regularly hear Republican lawmakers complain that one or two favored lobbyists had more say over the House’s direction and agenda than they did.
Most of the rank-and-file GOP legislators don’t want to return to what some would call “the bad old days.”
The members of Craddick’s inner circle who are still on the outs with Straus haven’t sent any signals to the rest of the membership that they’ve learned their lesson and that things would be different if they returned to power.
Straus and his inner circle appear to be underestimating how big a problem they have with the Republican grassroots. “Oust Straus” is rapidly becoming a Texas Tea Party mantra. These folks aren’t kidding. They defeated two of his chairmen in primaries, helped defeat a bunch of his Democratic chairmen in the general election, and gave a few Straus lieutenants close scares.
At the 2010 Republican State Convention, the anger directed at Straus was palpable. Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas), a boyhood friend of Straus’,got booed when introducing him. Former party vice chairman David Barton got a favorable reception when he distributed anti-Straus push-cards on the convention floor.
If anything, grassroots Republican frustration has intensified, not died down.
If Straus doesn’t address this, and fast, the 2012 primaries have the potential to make the 2010 showdown look like a walk in the park. The party will be at war with itself, and Democrats will likely gain seats in the aftermath.
It’s relatively easy to address this concern. What most Tea Party folks are concerned about is that Straus will allow Democrats to kill Voter ID, pro-life legislation, bills combating illegal immigration, and taxpayer protections.
Asking a Republican speaker to allow key bills in the Republican platform to get a vote on the House floor isn’t legislative bribery. There are several different ways Straus could address this concern without revealing future committee chairmen or making commitments to a specific bill. In short, because his initial coalition included more Democrats than Republicans, some GOP activists want to make sure he’s committed to core Republican values.
The Speaker’s race became more lively this week. That said, the momentum remains with the incumbent. The key question is how will Straus act in the next few weeks? His strategy will determine whetherhis coalition is stable or whether he will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
... written by Wayne Hammersmith , November 16, 2010
Straus won't kill Voter ID--Larry Taylor and the GOP Caucus did that all on their own last year. Straus wanted to pass the conservative, hard-line version of Voter ID and Taylor and the Caucus pussyfooted around and couldn't get their act together. Don't blame Joe Straus for something that Craddick's allies killied.
... written by Martina Ramirez , November 17, 2010
All night I've been hearing on the radio about how there are anti-semitic emails going out about Joe Straus. Well, tonight I got one. I'm not happy about this at all. I believe we need to have our republicans united, not fighting each other. Joe Straus may be Jewish, but he's looking stronger than Warren Chisum and Ken Paxton to me.
... written by Jesse Walker-Knight , November 17, 2010
Who would have thought two weeks ago when the republicans won that social conservatism would divide the party? Joe Straus sure seems like the right person for Speaker to me given the anti-semitic emails and phone calls I've received from our Tea Party group over the past couple of day.
... written by bigun , November 17, 2010
My problem with Straus has nothing what ever to do with his religion.
The long and short of it is that I simply don't TRUST him given the manner of his election in the first place and his VERY poor performance thereafter.
... written by Richard J Gregory Sr. MSGT USAF (ret) , November 17, 2010
If ,in fact there are anti-semitic rantings against Strauss, AND if these are from a Tea Party Member or Group...PLEASE IDENTIFY,by naame or group who they are. The Tea Party I subscribe to not only doesn't support bigotry,racisim or ethnic slander but we will activiely work to rid ourselves of them. As for Strauss...He need to be replaced...
... written by Gwen Andrews , November 17, 2010
Well, I met Straus and he's a true conservative, not at all interested in telling people how to live their lives. Personally, I think he did a great job in 2009. Our problems were as much about the democrats as the Craddick people who were just looking to make things bad and blame it on Straus.
Paxton, from what I've heard, is a genuine conservative but he's too much about telling people how to live and he's more than little naive. The democrats will have a field day with him. Also, the racism in this race is a little nasty... I've considered myself a tea party supporter, but I have Jewish friends and these letters are just disgusting.
I'm part of the grassroots and I want Straus. All this garbage out there is little more than M Q Sullivan's astroturf.
... written by Martin L. , November 17, 2010
*sigh* I am sad to say that I too got the same email twice: “Fellow Christian, please contact your State Representative and urge them to be true to our Texas values by electing someone other than Joe Straus, a Jew, to become Speaker. Tell your State Representative to hold onto the Texas values we as Christians hold so dear to our souls.”
... written by Texas Mommy Patriot , November 17, 2010
In the 81st session, Straus proved that he will block conservative legislation (Voter ID, illegal immigration). He appointed nearly 50% of his committee chairs to Democrats, some of which have discussed de-funding Attorney General Greg Abbott's Obamacare mandate lawsuit. Straus has a 100% rating from NARAL and a friend of Planned Parenthood. Weren't they HUGE supporters of Obamacare? Wouldn't they want to see Abbot defunded? The connection between Straus, NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the Democratic committee chairs has me concerned for Texans and the healthcare mandate lawsuit.
... written by msouth , November 17, 2010
I have never seen anything from any Tea Party group that was racist. I think people who are claiming that these "anti-semitic emails" are going around should put up or shut up. What tea party organization sent them? Who sent the mail? When? What was the content?
It sounds like a rumor deliberately started to discredit the Tea Party activism.
... written by Bryan S. , November 17, 2010
Strauss didn't cause voter ID to be stopped. The fact that there were 74 Democrats out of 150 House members was the cause.
... written by annonymous , November 17, 2010
Straus has been good for Texas when Texas was in bad shape. The projected budget shortfall means this is no time to switch leadership. $21 billion in the hole means we need experienced hands at the healm.
... written by John Melvin Dodd , November 17, 2010
My opposition to Joe Straus also has nothing to do with his religion, and I'm concerned that anti-Jewish emails are being circulated. Straus' initial support two years ago was 65 Democrats and 11 RINO Republicans and he acted like that was his support. We TEA Partiers (I'm a lifelong Republican also) want a true conservative Speaker. We also do not want another dictator like Craddick.
... written by texax g-man , November 17, 2010
It is a fact that if one of Straus' Lt's was strong arming a State Rep, Straus knew. Just so happens I know the Rep and you can take what he said to the bank. He would have been able to name his position until he came out with the facts. Truth, honor and fair play mean more to him than position or power. Straus needs to go because he is a liberal not because he is Jewish, that has nothing to do with anything.
... written by Texan , November 17, 2010
I would like for Jesse to tell us which Tea Party group is sending the aforementioned emails?
... written by Mike O , November 17, 2010
Whoever is sending the anti-semitic emails is no true friend of the opponents to Straus (and I wouldn't put it passed some of Straus forces to be fanning this falseissue). Bottom line, it was Straus's leadership that failed on SEVERAL initiatives this last time. We need someone like Paxton to get this corrected and NOT be beholding to those that just got voted out of power, as Straus is.
... written by Suzanne Adams , November 17, 2010
Joe Straus is just plain NOT the ultra Conservative Speaker of the House that we feel is necessary in this time of outright Socialist/Communist leadership that is coming out of Washington, D.C. His compromising will hurt Texas!
... written by freddy mac , November 17, 2010
So now to prove that we are not anti-semetic, we have to have a squishy RINO as Speaker, man up you freaking wimp.
... written by Ken Dickson , November 18, 2010
Simple!...the GOP won! To ignore 99 votes is insanity! The Conservative base needs their say!
... written by Lewis Lowe , November 18, 2010
Straus cannot be a conservative and let Dems vote for speaker or give chairmanships to Dems. He will do both to get elected just as he did two years ago Lewis L
... written by Ed Devine , November 18, 2010
Texas House newcomers would be well advised to consider the results of November 2nd. elections and recognize that such results demonstrate Texans demand for change in our Legislature, including a change in House Leadership. Those newly elected House members who chose to ignore the will of their fellow Texans, and choose to support Strauss, should prepare themselves for a 1 term visit to Austin.
... written by Ed Devine , November 18, 2010
Arguments that we need an experienced hand as House Speaker are nonsense. When you really think about it, politics and bureaucracies are the two career choices where experience and seniority are NOT recommendations for the job. Texas needs a Speaker who will accept and honor the will of the people as the guidance in our governance. Like it or not, democracy is just another way of stating 'majority rules'. Our founders pledged their lives, fortunes, and their sacred honor to escape from the arrogance of an elitist minority and a self serving bureaucracy. Strauss never represented the will of Texas citizens in any appreciable manner. It's time for a new Leader the Texas House. The alternative would be to turn out even more House members in two short years! Texas is awake, alert, and we remember!
... written by Tim Moore , November 18, 2010
Who cares about the unproven racism claims. Most likely not from a legitimate person; and if it is call them out and get them ousted.
The fact is, Strauss is the same as Craddick - top down, only he has allowed the minority Democrats to control his top down.
We the People will no longer tolerate the Strauss's of the political world.
The Strauss Era will come to an end.
... written by Roy Casanova , November 19, 2010
Are people so naive that the issue of anti-semitism is a tactic associated with progrossive liberals. Would not put it past those on the short end of the election out come initiating this effort to divide the Conservative efforts. Speaker Straus is my friend and my rep. He would be wise to make amends and appoint winning Republicans to chairmanships.