Ever since the failure of House Speaker Joe Straus’ plan to appoint a far-left extremist to the Texas Ethics Commission the pressure has been on the Texas House Republican Caucus to hold him accountable for his choice. But instead of stepping up to the plate, there has been a dereliction of duty.
When Straus was on the hot seat, the GOP Caucus threw him a lifeline, boldly declaring their “great confidence that Speaker Straus will select the best possible Democrat to serve on the Texas Ethics Commission.”
Straus was required to appoint a Democrat because the TEC is split evenly between the two major parties.
But given Straus’ record, conservatives predicted Straus would betray those who were covering for him.
And he did.
Records obtained by Texas Scorecard from the Speaker’s office show that House Democrats recommended twenty individuals for appointment to the Texas Ethics Commission. A majority of them were washed up former politicians, trial lawyers, and lobbyists, but some showed promise.
Take for example, David Wellington Chew.
A former Navy officer, and El Paso City Representative, Chew gained recognition as a lawyer and was elected to the 8th District Court of Appeals. He was later appointed Chief Justice of the 8th Court of Appeals by Rick Perry in 2006.
So numerous are his qualifications that it’s hard to summarize them succinctly—something State Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), who nominated Chew, noted in his letter to Straus:
“It’s difficult to summarize such a diverse, distinguished career—Judge Chew really has seen and done it all—so I’ve attached his very impressive resume for review. I don’t believe you’ll find a more qualified candidate for the commission anywhere.”
Though pledging to find the “best possible Democrat” is akin to announcing a unicorn hunt, it’s hard to disagree that Chew would have been a respectable choice. He was respected enough as a jurist to be promoted by Republican Gov. Rick Perry and he even has a State Bar of Texas award named after him.
Indeed, replacing an appointee who said the commission wasn’t there “to call constitutional balls and strikes” and they “didn’t have to read Third Court opinions” with someone that even a Republican governor has trusted on one of the courts of appeals would have been a step in the right direction.
Straus rejected the opportunity to appoint Chew. Likewise, he ignored several seemingly qualified citizen candidates nominated by the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, as well as a respected law professor, former university regents, and other potentially reasonable choices.
Instead Straus turned to former Rep. Steve Wolens, who was nominated by liberal Democrat State Reps. Rafael Anchia (Dallas) and Trey Martinez Fischer (San Antonio). Wolens, who served as a Democratic member of the Texas House for over two decades was instrumental in turning the TEC into a weapon against conservatives.
It is clear from his appointment that Straus supports the TEC’s scorched earth war against conservatives.
Wolens is not the “best possible Democrat,” nor is he even the best possible Democrat Straus could have chosen.
Yet where is the roar from the House GOP Caucus, who have been betrayed by Straus again?
Caucus chairman Tan Parker (R–Flower Mound) has again refused to comment on the appointment, or the list that was available to Straus.
Time and time again, politicians like Tan Parker who campaigned as conservatives are trotted out to sacrifice their credibility and their reputations for Straus, only for him to betray them at the first opportunity.
Even after outright public betrayal, House Republicans don’t rise up, raise the alarm, or fight back against Straus or his ruling coalition with the Democrats.
It’s time for Texans to demand that our representatives have the courage to stand up for what is right, instead of simply doing what they are told.