As we are all likely aware, there is a speaker’s race heating up as we approach the 84th Texas Legislative Session, so Texans have started to recount what exactly our current speaker has done while at the gavel.

But even before Texans learned taxpayer champion Scott Turner would make a run for Speaker, current Speaker Joe Straus’ record has been on the forefront of Republican primary voters’ minds. Even in primary races outside of the Texas House.

During the Attorney General panel at the Montgomery County Tea Party Candidate Forum in late October of the question “Supporter of Joe Straus, or opposed to Joe Straus?” was asked.

Both Senator Ken Paxton—known for challenging Straus in 2011, and moderate Rep. Dan Branch—Straus’ Higher Ed chairman, gave true-to-form answers taxpayers would expect given their records.

Branch never gave a “direct” answer. Instead, he touted what he views as “accomplishments” of the 83rd session. “I think the real issue,” Branch said, “is what have these people gotten from their engagement?”

He touted “a balanced budget,” “a tax cut of over a billion dollars,” and “a rainy day fund that’s the largest in its history,” let’s take a closer look at what Branch and his colleagues have graciously bestowed upon us Texans.

First, the Texas Legislature is required by the state constitution to balance the budget in order to leave Austin. It is the one and only bill they have to pass each session.

But, that requirement does very little to limit the amount of spending, as evidenced by the 26% increase from last session to this session that was supported by moderates and liberals—including Dan Branch.

On to those tax cuts. They were originally passed out of the House in the form of highly targeted tax cuts for corporate friends of Straus-chair-turned-Comptroller-candidate Harvey Hilderbran.  Senator Glenn Hegar, who happens to be TFR’s endorsee in the state Comptroller’s race, then turned those targeted tax-breaks into actual comprehensive tax relief.

As for the “largest” rainy day fund, the Wall Street Journal noted: “This may be the first time in history that a state experienced a rush of new tax collections and lowered its reserve fund.”

So, thank you Representative Branch, for reminding us what the people got from their engagement last session!

Also in true form was Senator Paxton: “So, I’m going to be a little more direct. I have made no secret that I’m not a fan of Speaker Straus.”

He noted that despite the fact the legislature had a near-supermajority of Republicans, those in leadership positions—put there by Speaker Joe Straus—have failed to give anything more than lip service to substantive conservative reforms.

It was not at all a surprise to see the true fighter in Paxton come out while discussing his challenge of Straus: “Without a conservative speaker, we’re losing out. We need to change that.”

The real surprise was in Barry Smitherman’s answer. Where Smitherman could have taken the opportunity to speak out against the moderate Speaker of the House, he merely danced around the subject—so much so that you can hear an audience member ask him to “answer the question” at hand.

In one breath, Smitherman claims he has a “bold” leadership style. And in the next, he deflects the question to the other two candidates saying, “I don’t have a vote on Joe Straus . . . That’s not my role. I’m not a voting person. These guys have voted.”

As Smitherman himself says, the Texas Attorney General is a “policy-implementer.” So, will he implement whatever policies come across his desk because he’s “not a voting person”…?

On a subject where we already knew where Branch and Paxton stood, Smitherman had the chance to shine. He had the opportunity to be “bold”, to stand up and say what we all know—that having Straus in the speaker’s chair is empowering liberal agendas and killing conservative reforms. But, he didn’t. Instead he chose not to fight, but to bob-and-weave in hopes of pleasing both sides.

While Branch continues to prove where his loyalties lie, Smitherman seems to have nothing to offer aside from his “seven lawsuits against Obama.” However, TFR endorsee Ken Paxton consistently stands out in the AG’s race. Reaffirming the reasons we endorsed him daily, and why Sen. Ted Cruz recently called him a “tireless conservative warrior.”


You can view the MCTP Forum-AG Panel online:

Morgan Williamson

Morgan serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard—monitoring our media presence, both online and in print. She is a Texas native, Texas State graduate, and veteran staffer of the 83rd Texas Legislature. Aside from a good dose of editing & strategizing, Morgan enjoys proper grammar usage, a lot of coffee, and good company.


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