Support across the state continues to grow for State Rep. Scott Turner (R-Rockwall) in his campaign against Joe Straus who currently wields the Speaker’s gavel. Activists, frustrated by Straus’ moderate to outright liberal policy record, began putting pressure on their legislators and local parties after the November elections demanding a change in leadership.
Nearly a third of the State Republican Executive Committee members have endorsed Turner’s candidacy, as well as numerous tea party organizations, grassroots volunteers and local activists. Republican county executive committees from around the state have also begun endorsing Turner in the speakership election.
Most recently, Kaufman County joined the growing list of those endorsing Turner, bringing the total (at time of publication) to 17 counties whose executive committees have passed resolutions explicitly endorsing the Rockwall Republican.
County Republican Executive Committees Supporting
Two more counties, Johnson and Bosque, have passed resolutions in favor of a “more conservative” candidate. With Turner being solidly more conservative and the only other declared candidate, there are an effective total of 19 counties supporting his bid with more resolutions continuing to be proposed in counties across the state.
On the other hand, not a single county in the state has endorsed the re-election of Joe Straus.
Despite Turner having such widespread support at the grassroots level, it hasn’t necessarily translated into support from fellow representatives whose counties support him. Notably, Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) whose district includes Harrison County, Cass County, Marion County, Shelby County, Panola and Sabine County still maintains his support for Straus in defiance of his constituents.
With the strong gains of conservatives statewide, national commentators have been quick to point out the inconsistency of Straus remaining at the helm of the House. A Forbes Magazine columnist dubbed Straus “the Harry Reid of Texas.”
The grassroots have also taken to social media platforms to express their support for Turner, while Straus supporters took to the same mediums to proclaim with certainty and dismissiveness that there is “no race for Speaker”. However the actions of state lawmakers tell another story, with Straus spokesman Jason Villalba agreeing to debate Turner-supporter Matt Rinaldi on January 7th.
Another Straus lieutenant, Jimmie Don Aycock, took to Twitter to attack Turner supporters.
Turner supporter Michael Openshaw of the North Texas Tea Party says it has nothing to do with personality, but rather the outcry against Straus is based on principles and policy.
“Anyone who votes for Joe Straus effectively votes against all the conservative bills that die in committee.” he said, continuing, “It’s absolutely ridiculous that the Democrats have a higher bill passage rate than Republicans despite our majority”. Despite claims of House leadership, that is exactly what happened in the last legislative session.
The vote for Speaker and the start of the Texas Legislative session is only weeks away and whether Straus or Turner has the votes to win is yet to be determined. Texans have until January 13th to make their voice heard on what will be a defining moment for the Texas Legislature.