Texas legislators fear bucking Speaker Straus

Texas Tribune:

While members engaged in the customary, private pre-session conversations about leadership, bills, and where to live and eat in Austin when the Legislature is in session, activists were trying to horn in. Cathie Adams, the former chairwoman of the Republican Party of Texas, has been gathering signatures of conservatives who would like to dump the incumbent Republican speaker.

Just before Christmas, the postings of a vaguely identified blogger spurred a flurry of responses from lawmakers. One post was a ramble on the “strange antics and extremist views” of state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, who is challenging Speaker Joe Straus. Another listed some representatives whom Simpson purportedly claimed as supporters.

The first blog post inspired state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, to write to Straus about the need to calm his outside supporters, citing “a woefully inaccurate blog post that is being circulated by one of your surrogates.” Simpson jumped in next, writing in a news release, “We must leave behind the politics of whispered insinuations, intimidation, and retribution. I join Rep. Fischer in calling on all parties, including my supporters, to rise above the fray.”


Here we are, getting a real-time peek into the high-minded politics of leading the House. This wasn’t in the civics textbooks in high school. Who knew transparency would be so disappointing?

Actually, the fact that the process is usually private is what prompted the outsiders to intervene, and their intervention has forced House members to defend a process that, left to them, would be more about internal politics and less about ideology.

A closed race allows members to choose their own leaders and reap the rewards and suffer the consequences, in the form of committee assignments, pecking orders and all of that. Opening it to the public brings the ideologies and loyalties of the various players to center stage. And because only the narrowest sliver of the voting public is paying any attention — only real partisans and very ardent activists give a flip about this stuff — their particular concerns dominate the conversation.

Only two members of the 150-member House have openly expressed support for anyone but the incumbent. Most members haven’t expressed anything; when The Texas Tribune did a nose count right after the elections, calling each member to ask about speaker preferences, 119 members declined to state one.
The reason only two have said they will support someone other than Straus is they want to be sure they can defeat him before openly opposing him and getting screwed on committee assignments as well as seeing their favored legislation go to a hostile committee.  

I saw the blog post referred to in the story, but thought it premature.  If a challenger had a real shot he would announce the votes and most of the other legislators would rush to get on board.  Since I am not someone with a candidate, it is safe for me to say what I don't like about Straus is his support from Democrat.  This is a Republican state and putting liberal Democrats in charge of certain committees is a betrayal of the voters.  While Straus wraps this betrayal in the language of bipartisanship, he is really working against the majority of voters in Texas.

This is not personal on my part.  I have never met Straus.  He obviously has some political skills.  I would prefer someone who works to get more Republicans elected and tries to grow the party rather than his own fan base.  If Straus wants more conservative support he should demonstrate more support of conservatives.


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