Picking Fights: Retaking the Texas House Speakership
“Well, there are some things a man just can’t run away from.” – John Wayne, Stagecoach (1939)
Throughout the last two years, Erick, Drew Ryun and myself have introduced RedStaters to many problems within the leadership of the Texas State House. Supporting evidence has been provided, most recently with Erick’s exclusive a few weeks ago, showing the Speaker’s office as the catalyst behind the war against house conservatives. It’s not a new fight but with the January vote on House leadership looming, it’s time to saddle up.
Straus’ was brought to the Speaker’s chair by liberal Republicans and Democrats. Since his rise to power, the Speaker has demonstrated himself to be more than proficient at rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies. As a liberal Republican, those enemies fall uniformly to his right. From his staff sending vulgar emails describing tea partiers and conservative representatives, to intimidating representatives with threats of redistricting, to fighting conservatives in contested primary elections, Joe Straus has proven himself time and again to be a petty and vindictive man.
Two years ago we pushed back against him, promising tough primary battles for Republicans who supported Straus’ reelection. We were scoffed at and told that there was no way the Speaker’s race would be a factor in the primary. While we were unable to stop his reelection as speaker, we made good on our promise during the primary elections.
The only significant victories Straus won (defeating Reps. Christian and Landtroop) required significant gerrymandering and incredible expenditures of financial and political capital from the Speaker’s allies. Conservatives on the other hand virtually ran the table. Several of the Speaker’s Chairmen were eliminated in contested primaries, a number more retired in the face of mounting opposition and even more liberal Republicans were taken out in open races. Not only was the Speaker a factor in the races but recently, Representatives have begun referring to him as "toxic" in private conversations.
While Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst are saddling up for a strong, conservative legislative session, Joe Straus has made his opposition to a number of their initiatives clear. In Texas, the Speaker determines chairmanships of the house committees and appoints a significant number of committee spots. Between his opposition to the Governor’s conservative agenda and his penchant for appointing liberals to powerful positions, Straus has cast himself as the chief roadblock to conservative reform in the upcoming legislative session
In the face of the growing case against Speaker Straus, many Representatives with historically conservative voting records are balking and seem unwilling to push back. Having seemingly forgotten who both their friends and enemies are, they are shirking their duty. Reps. Phil King and Jodie Laubenburg are two prime examples. Both voted against Straus last cycle because they know he’s not a conservative but are caving this cycle. I have great respect for the record that each of these Representatives have made and hope that they will once again see this as a fight work picking. (Hint: The way to catalyze that change is for the constituents to call them!)
While some of their elders seem to have grown “weary in well doing,” a growing number of young conservatives are girding for a fight. They branded themselves as fighters during their campaigns and are prepared to prove their tenacity on their first day in office.
Representative David Simpson is the only declared candidate opposing Straus for the Speaker’s chair at the moment. He is a man of great integrity and his conservative credentials, as well as his sense of fairness, cannot be questioned. Probably best known for his Anti-Groping TSA bill, Rep. Simpson has fought against the cronyism and deception emanating from the Speaker’s office since his entrance onto the political scene. Even though his conservative beliefs are well-known, Simpson earned the respect of many opponents, including Democrats, for opposing the leadership no matter if it was unfairly attacking his friends or his enemies. As Simpson said in his letter to the House, it’s not enough to just do the right thing. “We have to do the right thing in the right way.” While it is unclear what choices will be present for a vote in early January, I have every confidence that Rep. Simpson would be a great leader for the House.
What is clear, even more-so now than two years ago, is that Joe Straus must go. He has further proven his opposition to a conservative agenda and inability to equitably discharge his duties as the presiding officer of this representative body.
Here is your call to action: If you live in Texas, call your representative and make your opposition to Straus and his liberal cronies clear. Whether you think your Rep. is on the right side of this or not, they need your calls. They need to hear from you! If you live outside Texas, chances are you have friends or family here (…everybody’s moving here so the odds are pretty good…). Let them know what’s at stake and make sure they contact their representatives as well.
As a bonus, here is a speech that Rep. Simpson gave on the House floor at the close of the last session. I have no doubt that you’ll see the contrast between this strong conservative and Speaker Straus: