On the first day of the session, State Rep. Mark Keough delivered a much-criticized speech seconding the nomination of Joe Straus for Speaker of the Texas House. In a parade of platitudes, Keough argued that Straus was a magnanimous statesman who had earned his respect.
But remarks online from his chief of staff, Jason Millsaps, tell a different story.
In an online debate over his boss’s testimony in favor of Straus, Millsaps told constituents that Keough (R-The Woodlands) did not volunteer to deliver the seconding speech, but rather was requested to deliver the speech by Straus himself.
Millsaps said refusing Straus “would have been a poke in the eye and every conservative bill [they] had from property tax reforms, appraisal system reforms, repealing red light cameras etc. would have died on day one.”
That characterization, made in a series of Facebook posts, meshes with the attacks that Straus and his Democrat coalition have levied against conservative lawmakers.
Indeed, Straus’ tenure as speaker isn’t one of “respect, honor, and statesmanship” as Keough claimed in his speech. Instead it’s marked by petty vindictiveness and politician manipulation, as illustrated in the implicit threat felt by Keough’s staff if they politely declined the Speaker’s demand.
Last session Straus thumbed his nose at Gov. Abbott and killed genuine ethics reform by diverting it from its House sponsor and handing it to his hatchet man, Byron Cook (R–Corsicana). Cook turned the bill upside down and used it to launch an unconstitutional attack on Texans’ First Amendment liberties.
After the session, Straus gloated how his Democrat coalition had scrapped the top policy priorities of the Republican Party of Texas into “flaming bags of junk.”
When asked for comment, Keough seemed to dismiss his staff comments as pandering to individuals in the district, and doubled down on his support for the Speaker.
“My guys, they take up for me. There is a narrative that has come up in the area that — hey, I did this because I wanted to find favor to be able to get stuff done,” said Keough. “Now, if the result of what I did helps us get our agenda done, I’m in. But, from my heart, that was not my motivation.”
Sadly, Keough appears to be simply the latest politician to run as a conservative only to sell out their word and their principles to support a corrupt democratic coalition in the House. Keough will find out like all of those before him that selling out will do nothing to advance conservative legislation, nor will it benefit his career as a politician.