The race to replace departing Texas House Speaker Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) at the dais may soon have a new candidate in State Rep. Drew Darby (R–San Angelo).
Capitol sources say Darby could enter the race as early as next week. If those rumors are true, Darby’s entrance should give taxpayers serious concern. During his 12 years in the Texas House, the lawmaker has repeatedly earned failing grades on the Fiscal Responsibility Index. During the most recent legislative session, Darby voted on the side of taxpayers only 40% of the time, one of the worst records of any Republican in the House.
Darby was a fixture of Straus’ leadership team, helping head a coalition that combined Democrats and establishment Republicans to obstruct conservative reforms.
During last session alone, Darby voted to raid the Economic Stabilization Fund, against the wishes of Gov. Greg Abbott and conservatives. He voted against efforts to strengthen property tax reform, and when a bill to limit state spending to population and inflation came to the floor, Darby voted with every Democrat to kill the bill in the final days of the special session.
Since the session, Darby has attempted to throw his political weight around, donating to colleagues in the chamber, apparently in an effort to build goodwill in preparation for a run for speaker.
Members receiving $1,000 donations from Darby in 2018
In addition to donating to establishment lawmakers, including several incumbent members opposed by Gov. Abbott, Darby’s campaign has also given $1,000 to Sam Harless, husband of former State Rep. Patricia Harless who is running for the seat vacated by State Rep. Kevin Roberts (R–Houston) as he mounts a quixotic bid to take his failing record to Congress.
Although new House Republican Caucus rules were passed so that Republican members could united around a candidate for speaker instead of allowing the Democrats to dictate their leader, Darby has refused to pledge to support the Republican caucus process. And it appears Darby is using his campaign contributions to build a minority group of Republicans who could vote with the Democrats to elect him as speaker, the same method by which Straus took office initially in 2009.
If Darby announces, he will join State Reps. Phil King (R–Weatherford) and John Zerwas (R–Richmond) who have already announced their intentions to seek the office. More candidates are expected to throw their hats in the ring before the legislature reconvenes (and members vote to select a new speaker) in January 2019.