Joe Straus

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Joseph Richard "Joe" Straus, III

Texas State Representative for
District 121 (Bexar County)
Incumbent
Assumed office 
January 2005
Preceded by Elizabeth Ames Jones

Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
Incumbent
Assumed office 
January 2009
Preceded by Thomas Russell "Tom" Craddick

Born September 1, 1959
San Antonio, Texas
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Julie Brink Straus
Occupation Businessman
Religion Judaism

Joseph Richard Straus, III, known as Joe Straus (born September 1, 1959), is a Moderate Republican state representative from San Antonio, Texas, who has been since January 2009 the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. He was initially elected to the House in a special election held in January 2005 to succeed Elizabeth Ames Jones, who resigned to join the Texas Railroad Commission, a post she has since vacated. A youthful admirer of the late U.S. Senator John Tower, for whom he was once a part-time chauffeur, Straus has, like Tower, supported pro-choice interests. His critics claim that he has also undermined free enterprise economics,[1] but he contends that he has been a champion for economic development, transportation, and public education.

To win the Speakership, Straus, armed with Democratic backing, unseated fellow Republican Tom Craddick of Midland, Texas, the senior member of the state House and its first ever Republican Speaker, a post that he held from 2003 to 2009.

In the final weeks of 2010, a movement developed among some conservative Republican citizens and political figures to replace Straus as Speaker. State Republican Executive Committee member John Cook wrote in an e-mail to a colleague: "We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it." The dissident conservatives stressed that their opposition to Straus is not because he is Jewish but that the Speaker should have pro-life, pro-family values.[2]

On January 11, 2011, the Texas House nevertheless reelected Speaker Straus, 132-15. The dissenters, including Bryan Hughes of Mineola, Warren Chisum of Pampa, and Ken Paxton of McKinney, Texas (who in 2015 became the Texas attorney general), have been termed by Tea Party activists as the "Texas 15."[3]

On October 25, 2017, Straus announced that he will not seek reelection in 2018 to the state House and hence will vacate the Speaker's office.[4] He said that his record five terms in the office has been a resounding success. No opponent had declared intentions to oppose Straus in the Republican primary scheduled for March 6, 2018. Already in the running for the Speakership are John Zerwas, a Straus loyalist from Richmond in suburban Fort Bend County near Houston, and state Representative Phillip Stephen "Phil" King of Weatherford in Parker County west of Fort Worth, who was first elected to the legislature in 1998.[5] A question remains as to whether the Speaker will continue to be elected by the whole membership, which can allow a Democrat-Moderate Republican majority to prevail as with Straus, or only the majority party, which would give a conservative candidate, such as King, the advantage.[6] Also bowing out in 2018 after eight terms in the Texas House is a Straus lieutenant, Byron Cook of Corsicana in Navarro County in north central Texas, who barely won re-nomination over a conservative challenger in 2016, Thomas McNutt, heir of the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana. Cook played the leading role in killing the bathroom legislation in 2017 by keeping the bill from obtaining a committee vote.[7] 

Straus did not seek statewide office in 2018. He was repeatedly at odds with Dan Patrick, who as the presiding office of the Texas State Senate pushed for a bold conservative agenda focusing on moral issues. Straus has nearly $10 million in his campaign treasury. Meanwhile, Charlton Soules, a former member of the San Antonio City Council, is seeking to fill Straus' state House seat.[8]

On January 27, 2018, the sixty-two elected members of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee[9] voted by just over the required two thirds vote, 44-19, to censure Straus for the "blocking of much of the conservative agenda advanced in 2017 by Governor Greg Abbott. Mark Dorazio, the interim Bexar County GOP chairman and a member of the state executive committee, said that Straus had subverted the party's platform and kept the state from becoming the conservative "shining city on the hill", as Ronald W. Reagan often spoke.[10]

Despite the snub among conservatives in his own San Antonio, community leaders across West Texas hailed Straus' leadership of the state House. Moderate Republican Mayor Dan Pope of Lubbock said that Straus represented rural Texas "admirably. His common-sense leadership in support of business and education - often in the face of criticism - will be his legacy.”[11] Straus championed the request of Texas Tech University to establish a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo despite opposition coming from within the GOP. Texas Tech System Chancellor Robert Lloyd Duncan, a Moderate Republican former state senator, described Straus as "an advocate for higher education and its importance in making our state better. He is also a common-sense legislator who recognizes state needs and works to address them. His support was instrumental in the Texas Tech University System receiving funding to pursue a dental school and school of veterinary medicine. We will miss his pragmatic leadership.”[11] State Representative John T. Smithee of Amarillo called Straus "a critical ally" for the needs of West Texas.[11]

Candidates seeking to succeed Straus in the March 6 primary include Matt Beebe, a business owner and two-time former Straus opponent; Marc Whyte, a business attorney; Carlton Soules, a former member of the San Antonio City Council and an unsuccessful candidate for Bexar County judge in 2012; Charlotte Williamson, who works for her family's petroleum and natural gas company, and attorney Adrian Spears. However, The San Antonio Express-News endorsed none of these candidates but instead urged Republicans to nominate a more Moderate Republican in the Straus mold, Stephen Philip "Steve" Allison (born January 4, 1947), a partner in the Haynes and Boone law firm in San Antonio, a 12-year member of the Alamo Heights Independent School District trustees and a former VIA transit board member.[12]

References

  1. http://www.votesmart.org/issue_rating_category.php?can_id=49917
  2. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/12/09/christian-conservative-replace-jewish-speaker-texan-pols-say/
  3. http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/01/tea-party-adherents-hail-the-t.html
  4. Price, Bob (October 25, 2017). Texas House Speaker Straus Will Not Seek Re-Election. Breitbart News. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
  5. Gromer Jeffers, Jr. (September 22, 2017). Weatherford lawmaker Phil King announces bid for Texas House Speaker. Dallas Morning News. Retrieved on September 27, 2017.
  6. Matthew Watkins (October 25, 2017). Texas House Speaker Joe Straus says he will not seek re-election: Straus, a San Antonio Republican, announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election. He did not rule out running for higher office. The Texas Tribune. Retrieved on October 26, 2017.
  7. Rep. Byron Cook won't see reelection. KXAN.com. Retrieved on October 26, 2017.
  8. Gilbert Garcia, "Straus flush with cash if he seeks new post," San Antonio Express-News, October 27, 2017, p. A2.
  9. The sixty-two members do not include state party chairman James Dickey of Austin and the vice chairman. Therefore the committee has a total of sixty-four members.
  10. Jonathan Tilove, "State GOP executive panel censures Straus: House speaker didn't go along with agenda," San Antonio Express-News, January 28, 2010, p. A6.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Matt Dotray (October 25, 2017). Speaker Straus commended for keeping West Texas in policy decisions. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved on February 16, 2018.
  12. "Pick Allison to replace Straus in 121", The San Antonio Express-News, February 16, 2018, p. 14A.