If anything can be taken from Tuesday night’s victory for Ted Cruz and others around the state, it’s that the Tea Party is as powerful of a force as it ever was. The passion and determination of the movement was something remarkable to witness.
It safe to assume our next U.S. senator will be a Republican, and a refocused Tea Party can have just as significant of an impact on the 2013 State Legislature.
There’s no doubt about it. Ted Cruz’ victory last night was in no small part to the solidarity of the Tea Party behind his campaign. And in down-ballot races, the movement elected several solid conservatives to the Texas Legislature.
Those in the mainstream media writing the Tea Party’s obituary not so long ago were given a rude awaking to the power the movement still yields.
Regardless of which candidate you favored in the Republican U.S. Senate runoff, one must respect what an engaged and cohesive Tea Party movement can accomplish. (TFR does not make federal endorsements, and therefore was neutral in the race.)
But Tea Partiers should not rest on their laurels knowing Mr. Cruz is essentially a shoe-in to be the junior senator from Texas. Nor should they be satisfied with simply sending a conservative freshman class to the State Capitol in January.
In a reversal of last session, this upcoming legislative session will feature the state senate as the most conservative body. We will now hear the names of Senators Paxton, Hancock, Taylor and Campbell echo inside the chamber instead of Senators Harris, Ogden, Jackson and Wentworth.
Now, the only bottleneck for conservative legislation rests on the speaker’s dais in the House.
And in case you haven’t heard, Rep. Joe Straus will be challenged for the speakership again.
In 2011, Texas saw it’s first public campaign for speaker in over 40 years – having been previously blocked from it by state law until it was ruled unconstitutional. Despite the relative inexperience with such an endeavor, and the short time frame, conservatives were still able to push 17 Republicans to on record calling for a more conservative speaker.
Although conservatives were unable to oust Mr. Straus from the speakership (or his house seat), they did the next best thing – throw out five of his committee chairmen and anyone else that stood close to him.
With Speaker Straus weaker than he’s ever been, now is the time for the Tea Party to shine yet again.
Six months now separate us from the start of the 83rd Legislature – an eternity for those representatives that still inside the Straus leadership circle. With it painfully clear how ineffective (or unwilling) Mr. Straus is in protecting his most loyal allies, now is the time to turn up the pressure.
It won’t be easy, but a Tea Party as focused as it was on the U.S. Senate race can make the difference in the speaker’s race.
And even if the ultimate goal of getting a conservative speaker doesn’t happen this time around, conservatives are still set to win big if they set their sights on passing reforms such as spending limits, truth in budgeting, and cuts to wasteful government. (All of these can be topics of conversations constituents have with their legislators at House Leadership Town Halls called for by the 2012 Texas GOP Platform.)
Tuesday showed the Tea Party is more than capable of making significant impacts to the political landscape of Texas. If conservatives set their mind to it, they can continue making great strides in 2013.