After Joe Straus was elected to the Texas House in a little-noticed special election, he reportedly told people he ran only because his mom wanted him to, so he could look after the family’s gambling industry interests. He became speaker of the Texas House in 2009 after the Democrats asked 11 liberal Republicans to chose amongst themselves who’d serve as speaker and they’d go along with it.
The most senior members of the group of 11 didn’t trust each other, but they all viewed Straus as a convenient puppet. He was chosen to ensure they could all share in the power of the Speaker’s office. It’s hard to discern what Joe Straus believes, since he spends most of his time hiding in the backrooms of the Capitol echoing the talking points of his family’s lobbyist, Gordon Johnson.
As a state representative, Joe Straus has been absent. He’s benefited by having a Bexar County district composed mostly of newcomers, but entirely encompassing the country club where he and his family spends most of their time.
In 2016, his major liability is that the newcomers have awakened to his lack of a local record, and the obstructionism he has embraced as House Speaker.
He’s being challenged by two well-regarded opponents.
First is Jeff Judson, an early president of the influential Texas Public Policy Foundation. His family has been in San Antonio longer than Straus’, and Judson has served on the local city council while his wife is a sitting member of the school board. Judson organized the defeat of a highly unpopular light rail plan that would have taxed the people of HD 121 while providing them no benefit.
The other challenger is Sheila Bean. She’s a retired school teacher and a long-standing conservative activist. One popular story has her block walking for a cause several years ago, breaking her ankle in the process… Not to be deterred, she was out block walking in a protective boot a few days later. That’s tenacity.
What’ll Happen: Straus has an $8 million war chest ostensibly raised to help other Republicans. That was before he had two challengers. Expect him to spend bigger than big. He won’t block-walk, but his campaign consultants will show him sharing doughnuts and coffee with paid block-walkers and hordes of lobbyists posing as volunteers.