Texas House Speaker Joe Straus abruptly announced Wednesday that he will not be running for reelection and will be giving up his position as speaker at the end of his current term. This is a major victory for grassroots activists who have mobilized local Republican parties across the state to call for Straus to be removed.
But now is not the time to celebrate. It’s time to escalate.
Taxpayers must be vigilant to ensure that Straus is not able to install a hand-picked successor who will continue to be controlled by Democratic lobbyist Gordon Johnson and liberal special interests. That means being more engaged than ever in the upcoming elections to ensure that those Republican sycophants who have propped up Straus will be removed from power as well.
Earlier this year Straus earned a spot on the Citizens’ Choice Ten Worst List wherein he was labeled “The Puppet” for serving as a public face for Johnson, the Democratic Caucus, and a group of liberal Republicans. Whether his retirement will mean the ouster of his puppet-masters remains to be seen.
During the regular and special session this year, Straus went to war with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Republican Party of Texas, obstructing each of their conservative agendas on property tax reform, privacy, ethics, gun rights, and others issues. Straus appears to now be paying the price for aligning himself against voters and the leaders they have popularly elected.
According to Capitol sources, Straus’ decision took some of his allies by surprise, with many having no knowledge the announcement would be coming this week, if at all. Those representatives who have backed Straus in the past and are still running for reelection will have a particularly tough road ahead as they are forced to defend Straus’ record of obstruction in the March primary without his backing.
Not all of Straus’ lieutenants were out of the loop however. At the same time that Straus announced his retirement, State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana), the speaker’s top hatchet-man, also announced he is not running for reelection. That announcement comes on the tail end of several other retirements and others are likely forthcoming.
For example, according to sources, State Rep. Dan Huberty (R–Houston), who killed all school choice proposals this session as Straus’ Public Education chairman, has cancelled his fundraising events and may be headed for the door as well.
With Straus out of the way, conservative Texans need to be on high alert. There will certainly be an attempt to install a replacement for Straus who continues to empower lobbyists like Johnson and the Democratic caucus. It is essential that taxpayers ensure the Republican caucus unite around a candidate, and that those candidates commit to advancing the Republican platform and working with statewide Republican leaders.
In recent years, Straus supporters have promoted State Rep. Four Price (R–Amarillo) as a possible 2019 successor. With a liberal record and alleged ties between his and the Straus family, Price would certainly be a continuation of the current regime. Other possible candidates, such as former Democrat State Rep. Todd Hunter (R–Corpus Christi), who served over the past several sessions as Straus’ gatekeeper on the Calendars Committee, would also likely continue to maintain a power coalition with the Democrats.
At a press conference, Straus refused to rule out a run for another office. Speculation that Straus may run against Abbott for Governor, possibly as a Democrat, may turn out to be the next step following this announcement.