As Straus penetrates red zone, not all of the defense plays nasty

As Straus penetrates red zone, not all of the defense plays nasty

(AP Photo/Odessa American, Edyta Blaszczyk)

Another day, another press release cranking up the Joe Straus bandwagon.

Late Wednesday, seven Texas House Republicans said the incumbent GOP speaker from San Antonio is nifty-keeno.

Their press release was the fifth in sixth days dribbling out names of Republican members who say they’ll vote for Straus to helm the House again in next year’s session.

“Most importantly, under his leadership, the House has produced conservative results that are good for this state,” said the seven, six of them from West Texas.

It was unsurprising the seven endorsed Straus. Last session, three were committee chairmen, three were on Appropriations and one was on Calendars.

Forty-two Republicans have inked their names to the five pro-Straus releases. Of 98 Republicans who will adorn the House next year, I easily can identify 18 more all but certain to stick with Straus over his challenger, freshman Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco. That would put Straus at 60 votes in his own caucus by Jan. 13, when the Legislature opens — and the House chooses a speaker.

 

Speaker candidate Scott Turner of Frisco, speaking to RedState gathering in Fort Worth in August, probably is short of the votes he needs to oust incumbent Speaker Joe Straus.

With effort, I can throw in a half-dozen more, but not the 16 he’d need to have 76 Republicans — a majority of the House’s 150 members. But no matter. If Straus maintains his past attractiveness to Democrats, who have 52 votes in the affair, the race is over. As many analysts have predicted for months, Straus wins.

In press accounts of the race, especially those of our friends at the online political news outlet Quorum Report, there’s a tendency to depict it in almost Manichean terms of good and evil, nice versus nasty.

In this narrative, Straus, the personally low-key scion of the Texas Republican establishment, is fending off savage attacks orchestrated by fiscal hawk activist Michael Quinn Sullivan and his patron, Midland oilman Tim Dunn. The “Dunn interlocking directorates,” as QR editor Harvey Kronberg put it this week, include staff writers for the Dunn-backed AgendaWise.com website. Peruse their posts, and you may agree with Straus loyalists that these finger-wagging bloggers cry out for adult supervision.

On Tuesday, Rep. Matt Krause, a Fort Worth Republican backing Turner, took to Facebook in a widely noted post. In effect, he told his side to cool it. Krause said he was told some pro-Turner activists had taken to social media to harass family members of pro-Straus House members.

Manichean worldview confirmed. Or so it seemed.

Yet this version of the speaker’s race is a little too pat, especially if you talk to some tea party adherents who don’t foam at the mouth. Yes, they exaggerate the speaker’s powers. True, they paint with too broad a brush when they say Straus killed of all of their pet bills in the past three sessions. Conceivably, they’ll regret someday that their party-purification efforts imported Washington-style, partisan strife to Austin.

Ken Emanuelson, second from right, joins leaders of two groups of gay Republicans as they denounce the Texas GOP for denying the groups exhibit-hall space at its May convention in Fort Worth.

But don’t assume they’re all seized with hatred. Ken Emanuelson, a tea party activist in Dallas, doesn’t fit the bill. Emanuelson, who calls himself a populist conservative, said Wednesday that he simply cannot get past how Straus deposed Republican Speaker Tom Craddick in 2009 and what’s happened since. That keeps him fired up to promote Turner’s candidacy, he said. Emanuelson, founder of the Grassroots Texans Network, noted approvingly that on Monday night, the Dallas County GOP executive committee voted, 34-24, in favor of a resolution backing Turner for speaker. He quickly emailed it to reporters. He also has mounted an online petition drive calling for Straus’ ouster.

“This is really about the way that the Texas House of Representatives essentially is a coalition government between the Democrats and a group of Republicans,” he said.

Some have dismissed Emanuelson as racist, for remarks he made last year about how the GOP was wasting its time on outreach to blacks. See this Texas Tribuneaccount of the flap.

But I and some other reporters have found him to be a straight-shooting, rather intriguing figure — not afraid to ruffle feathers as he marches to his own “liberty-minded” drummer. This spring, as my colleague Gromer Jeffers Jr. reported in this story, Emanuelson joined leaders of two groups of gay Republicans in demanding they be given exhibit hall space at the state GOP convention. Emanuelson didn’t salute their agenda. He just stood up for their right to air their views and stretch the party tent a bit wider. (The groups were rebuffed.)

Emanuelson complains that Team Straus has deep-sixed “sanctuary city” bills, which would bar cities from prohibiting police from asking people they stop about their immigration status, and legislation tightening requirements on employers of immigrants. He said he’s frustrated that bills giving tax credits for private schools haven’t gotten more traction.

“We don’t expect to win every floor battle but those bills should get a hearing,” he said.

Another explanation may be that his side found lousy sponsors and didn’t work hard enough to sell the measures.

It should be noted, though, that while Emanuelson likes to say that Straus has too much……read more.

 

By Robert T. Garrett

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