The Texas House gaveled the 84th Legislature into session Tuesday afternoon and the election of a speaker headlined the agenda.
Conservative and Tea Party Republicans, frustrated with a moderate-to-outright-liberal speaker with a proven track record of killing conservative legislation, had been leading the charge for more conservative leadership in the House. They rallied around State Rep. Scott Turner (R-Frisco) who campaigned on a conservative agenda of honesty in spending and limited government.
Despite enjoying the support of the grassroots who spent months calling their representatives and descending on the Capitol in droves Monday and Tuesday to meet with them in person, the activists were not successful. Scott Turner fell short in his campaign for the Speaker’s gavel by a vote of 127-19.
Retaining power is Joe Straus, a moderate who first came to power thanks to the “Gang of 11” Republicans empowered by the support of 64 Democrats. With actions such as killing concealed carry on campus, delaying border security measures, wanting to bring Obamacare to Texas, and other matters, it’s no wonder that his allies include so many liberal Democrats.
Straus Lieutenant, State Rep. Jason Villalba said only last week at his debate with Turner supporter Matt Rinaldi that the Speaker was “conservative, transparent, pragmatic, Reagan-esque.” House Democrats knew this was only doublespeak—that Straus would pursue a “progressive” agenda as Villalba asserted in his closing arguments.
Days later, 45 House Democrats issued a letter endorsing Straus for the upcoming election. Even State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democrat who was crushed in her bid for lieutenant governor by her colleague Dan Patrick, said, “We are so fortunate and blessed to have people like Speaker Joe Straus.”
On the day of the vote, Straus received complete and unanimous support from the Democrats.
Turner’s votes came from only Republicans, namely a number of known conservative standouts and leaders unafraid to buck the status quo.
State Rep. Bryan Hughes, who serves as the pro-life whip, supported Turner and pushed fellow members to do the same in a speech on the House floor. State Rep. David Simpson, who challenged Straus in the last session, gave Turner his support as well.
State Rep. Scott Sanford also offered words of support for Turner from the front mic, emphasizing the importance of the will of the people of Texas and reminding legislators of their job as representatives of The People. Sanford currently represents House District 70, the same district from which current State Attorney General Ken Paxton launched his bid to unseat the Speaker in 2011.
Paxton was rewarded by Texas voters for his courage in standing up for conservative principles. They used the next two elections to catapult him into the Texas Senate and his current office.
It’s not known what is next for the Texas House, Speaker Straus, or Rep. Turner, but one thing is clear: The voters of Texas are demanding conservative results. They will lift up their champions to higher office, and vote out those who go on the record against them. And they are watching.
The 19 Conservatives who supported Rep. Turner: