Earlier this month we began laying out the criteria citizens (and their legislators) should use to evaluate candidates seeking election as the next Texas House speaker.
Among the three criteria is a requirement that the individual have a positive record demonstrating their commitment to Republican values, specifically by supporting conservative reforms when doing so required standing up to leadership:
“A speaker candidate must have a record of supporting conservative reforms even when doing so required opposition to previous leadership.”
Why is this important?
Joe Straus’ obstruction of conservative reforms over the past decade is a symptom of the cronyism and corruption in Austin. It would be foolish to think that a legislator who has never shown a track record of standing up to the current House leadership would suddenly be willing to stand up to Straus’ puppet-masters now that he is gone.
As scripture tells us:
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10)
The Speaker of the Texas House is a position that, for better or worse, bestows a great deal of power and authority upon the individual who wins the post. Voters can expect the next speaker to be tempted more than ever to side with Austin insiders over the promises they made to their supporters (both in the district and in the chamber).
So how can citizens know which candidates they can entrust with that power? Perhaps no better window into which lawmakers stand on the side of citizens or the crony Austin establishment exists than how legislators acting during the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2017.
Last summer, conservative activists statewide rallied behind legislation to strengthen the state’s spending limit—a long-sought goal of Republican activists—and the chairman of the Texas House GOP, State Rep. Tan Parker of Flower Mound carried the bill.
This was mainstream, conservative legislation that had previously passed the Texas Senate three times.
Though the bill made it to the floor for a vote, Straus and other members of his governing coalition conspired with Democrats to scuttle the bill on a point of order which Parker moved to overturn.
The following Republican lawmakers voted with Democrats against Parker and a majority of their own party to kill the bill (current Speaker candidates bolded):
Trent Ashby, Ernest Bailes, Angie Chen Button, Giovanni Capriglione, Drew Darby, Jay Dean, John Frullo, Dan Huberty, Todd Hunter, Kyle Kacal, Ken King, Linda Koop, John Kuempel, Stan Lambert, JM Lozano, Geanie Morrison, Chris Paddie, Dade Phelan, Four Price, John Raney, JD Sheffield, Hugh Shine, Gary VanDeaver, John Wray, John Zerwas.
Of the other announced candidates, Parker was obviously in support of the bill as its sponsor, as was Phil King. Travis Clardy was notably absent for the vote and Democrat Eric Johnson predictably voted in opposition.
Is this vote the only one by which a candidate should be measured? No, but it should serve as an effective starting point for evaluating who is—and who isn’t—willing to stand up and fight for conservative reforms.