Smith County GOP backs plan to oppose Straus as House Speaker

Smith County GOP backs plan to oppose Straus as House Speaker

 Photo: Smith County GOP facebook page 

Local representatives who plan to oppose Texas House Speaker Joe Straus received the backing of county GOP leaders.

 

A resolution supporting Straus’ opponent, sophomore Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, was unanimously approved by about 20 Smith County Republican precinct chairmen during a meeting earlier this week. The resolution praised Turner’s conservative credentials and scolded Straus for veering a Republican-dominated House to the left.

 

Republican party officials in Collin and Dallas counties also have approved similar resolutions supporting Turner.

 

Smith County Republican Party Chairman Tim McCormick said the resolution’s subsequent votes by legislators against Straus could be detrimental to East Texas. He acknowledged the possibility of political retribution if momentum for Turner does not build.

 

But McCormick said county-level conservatives are drawing a concerted line in the sand following a “Democratic shellacking” during the November statewide and national elections. He said voters around the state expect the new lineup of Republican state leaders to use their political capital and numbers to push a conservative agenda.

 

“Conservatives don’t feel like their voices are being heard in a way that’s reflective of who they’ve put in office,” McCormick said.

 

McCormick said conservative groups across the state are asking local party officials to pass similar resolutions.

 

Straus’ office did not respond to requests for comment regarding the Speaker’s race.

 

Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson said there is “no question” Straus will retain his post.

 

Whether local House members are personally opposed to Straus or feel pressure from the conservative activist wing of the local GOP base, Jillson said dissenters won’t have a voice on leadership decisions or the ear of Straus to possibly influence legislative movements.

 

Texas House Speakers yield enormous power. They set the agenda for members during the Session. They assign committees and all important chairman positions on those committees, who can ease a bill’s movement or prevent it from reaching a floor vote.

 

Local legislators “may feel they are charged to represent their district but (opposing Straus) does mean they won’t be on the inside,” Jillson said. “They’ll be the ones with their noses pressed against the glass watching.”

 

Jillson said he expects opposition numbers to boil down to around a dozen as they did prior to Straus’ re-election by acclamation before the 2013 session began. He suspects Straus has more than enough pledge cards, pledges of support from members made after the last session, in his desk drawer to remain at the House’s helm.

 

Before the 2013 session began, Straus released a pledge list of more than 120 members. He needs just half of the 150 members’ support to stay Speaker.

 

Straus replaced conservative House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, in 2009 by parlaying 11 outsider Republicans members’ unhappiness and 64 House Democrats into a successful coup against a powerful Speaker in Craddick.

 

East Texas legislators have been eager to ride waves of public discontent aimed at Straus since. Straus is viewed as a moderate and his reliance on Democrats fuels conservative suspicions.

 

Former District 6 Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, challenged Straus before the 2011 session but dropped out of the race and put his support behind a more likely candidate. Berman objected to the traditional vote for Speaker by acclamation and forced members to show where they stood with a roll call vote.

 

Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, briefly campaigned against Straus in 2013. Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, challenged Straus after Hughes dropped his candidacy but withdrew before a vote.

 

Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, Berman’s successor, has vocally supported Turner as he did Hughes and Simpson. He said Turner better reflects the conservative principles of District 6 and that he respects the sophomore legislator’s leadership abilities.

 

Schaefer said the race for Speaker is good for conversation’s sake if nothing else. It educates the public about a powerful position that a majority of House members choose.

 

But he also believes a tide of county-level activism and public urging support for Turner, could change the race’s dynamics.

 

Turner has promised to call for a roll vote as Berman did, which puts members’ support on record.

 

Schaefer said he believes Straus will work with members who vote against him.

 

“I believe he respects people’s votes,” he said. “He always tells me to vote my district and that is what I will do.”

 

Smith County Republican Club President David Stein said retribution is possible but that the support for a speaker candidate who aligns more ideologically with East Texas is a matter of principle.

 

The Smith County resolution was “a little sharper” than other counties, Stein said. It goes beyond support for Turner and criticizes Straus for colluding with Democrats.

 

The resolution points to Straus’ …………read more.

 

 

BY Adam Russell, arussell@tylerpaper.com

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