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 indicate if he will seek statewide office in 2018, perhaps the governorship against Greg Abbott or the lieutenant governor's position against his intra-party adversary, Dan Patrick, who as the presiding office of the Texas State Senate has pushed for a bold conservative agenda focusing on moral issues. Straus has nearly $10 million already in his campaign treasury. Meanwhile, Charlton Soules, a former member of the San Antonio City Council, has announced his candidacy to fill Straus' House seat. The 2016 opponent, Jeff Judson, is reportedly considering another run as well.[8]

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.