Splits in tea party ranks enliven otherwise dull speaker’s race

Splits in tea party ranks enliven otherwise dull speaker’s race
State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, has tea party credentials. He created a stir this week when he said fellow freshman Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, isn’t qualified to be House speaker.

Despite this week’s defections among North Texas tea partiers to Speaker Joe Straus’ side, making his re-election as speaker appear inevitable, there still should be a public vote on the matter in January, a campaign consultant to several staunchly conservative GOP House lawmakers said Friday.

Consultant Luke Macias said last week’s election sweep by Republican conservatives, both nationally and in Texas, makes it urgent that conservatives hold themselves and their colleagues to account.

“Nothing could be better for the speaker’s race on the first day of the session than to have a vote,” said Macias, who represents several of Straus’ most vocal House critics, such as GOP Reps. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford and Matt Schaefer of Tyler. “Let the chips fall, and then move on to the business of governing.”

Macias said Stickland, Schaefer and other House members who support Straus’ challenger, freshman Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, have long been aware of the discouraging math that makes Turner the longest of shots. But they still want a first-day vote, something he said Straus allies are fiercely resisting.

“It’s about voting your district,” Macias said.

In none of Straus’ three earlier runs for speaker was there a contested vote as the session opened. Former Speaker Tom Craddick exited the 2009 contest days before Straus’ initial elevation to the House’s top spot. In the run-up to both the 2011 and 2013 sessions, two Republican members announced candidacies to oust Straus.

But they all withdrew before the election of speaker occurred. There was only one instance, in 2011, where tea party activists got even a piece of dandruff from the San Antonio Republican’s scalp. That year, with Straus the only member nominated from the floor, 15 staunch conservatives voted against his re-election as speaker. There were 132 votes in favor.

This week, the pressure to shut down the race intensified.

On Monday night, freshman Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, shocked some audience members at a meeting of the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party by saying Straus was a shoo-in and Turner was unqualified.

You can watch a 3 1/2-minute video clip of Capriglione’s defense of his intention to vote for Straus’ re-election by clicking here.

Late Thursday, tea party-backed North Texas House members such as Ron Simmons of Carrollton, Drew Springer of Muenster and James Frank of Wichita Falls issued a letter in which they joined Capriglione in endorsing Straus and saying they were “proud of the accomplishments of the Texas House in recent years.”

The signers cited voter ID, abortion restrictions, defunding of Planned Parenthood in women’s health and family planning programs, increased state funding for border policing, tax cuts, budget restraint and resistance to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

They were joined by others who many months earlier came to a sort of rapprochement with Team Straus — Reps. Phil King, R-Weatherford; Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound; and Myra Crownover, R-Denton.

“No action of the Legislature is more divisive than a speaker’s race,” the seven House Republicans wrote. They said that to fight “liberal policies at all levels of government” will require “unprecedented unity among Republicans as we enther the 84th Legislature in January.”

While the signees conceded that from staunch conservatives’ vantage points, “there is much work yet to be done,” they said Turner has fewer than 20 votes out of the 150 new state representatives. Of the 98 Republicans, Straus has more than 80 percent supporting his re-election, they said.

Other Straus supporters said Friday that the letter underscores growing impatience with Turner, who has been flying into members’ districts and trashing the House’s record in recent sessions. In this they see the fine hand of fiscal hawk activist and leading Straus critic Michael Quinn Sullivan, which they said is weakening with defections of people Turner would have to hold to be successful.

Even Macias, who has strong ties to Sullivan, didn’t dispute the letter writers’ numbers.

Before Turner jumped into the race in January, “we were all aware of the math,” Macias said.

He said, though, that many GOP activists are unhappy with ………..more here.

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