As many predicted the 2016 election will be a tough row to hoe for Republicans across the nation. Normally a safe harbor for the GOP, Texas has moved into the “tossup” category as a tidal wave of Democrat voters threatens to turn the state a bluish shade of red for the first time in more than twenty years.
With such a storm coming, many Republican operatives have been working feverishly to shore up the most vulnerable down ballot races and stop the wave from washing away the gains that they’ve worked hard to achieve. The call for all-hands-on-deck has even forced some Republicans who usually oppose one another to put their internal feud on pause and start working together.
But while most of the Texas GOP has banded together to defend its legislative majority, one leader has been conspicuously absent—Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio).
Of course Straus shouldn’t be on the sideline. He’s one of the state’s “Big 3” lawmakers and carries significant clout. He’s even the chairman of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, a national organization dedicated to electing more Republicans to state legislatures.
Holding the keys to the Texas House Leadership Fund, a mirror of U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan’s Congressional Leadership PAC which launched a $10 million effort to defend vulnerable Republican incumbents across the nation, Straus certainly has the resources to assist Republicans facing tough re-election fights.
Yet what has Straus done to defend Republicans from Democrats this year?
Nothing for the vulnerable State Reps. Rick Galindo and John Lujan with whom he shares San Antonio.
Nothing for State Reps. Ken Sheets (R-Dallas) or Rodney Anderson (R-Grand Prairie).
Despite each of these lawmakers facing an uphill battle to return to Austin, Straus hasn’t given them a dime personally or through his warchest—the Texas House Leadership Fund.
Don’t be mistaken, Straus spent a lot of money this election, but it wasn’t against Democrats, it was against conservatives. Through his Texas House Leadership Fund, Straus spent nearly $1 million defending his liberal Republican henchmen (and himself) from conservative opponents in the primaries.
Why? Because he has nothing to gain by electing more Republicans, especially not conservative ones.
It goes back to Straus’ ascension to power in which eleven turncoat Republicans conspired with a united Democrat caucus to overthrown Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland). Straus gained the gavel for himself, but the corrupt bargain demanded that Democrats be rewarded for their contribution.
The result was a ruling coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats that works together to halt the efforts of conservatives.
The Democrats are united in their support of Straus, but given the failure to pass conservative reforms many Republicans have chafed under his rule—leading to conservatives organizing against him. The truth is Straus has nothing to gain by helping elect those who could oppose him or push for issues that Democrats would demand he kill.
It should come as no surprise that Straus would repeatedly abandon Republicans in their times of need. What is surprising is that they still stand by him and accept such repeated betrayal.