Joe Straus

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Joseph Richard "Joe" Straus, III


Texas State Representative for
District 121 (Bexar County)
In office
January 2005 – January 2019
Preceded by Elizabeth Ames Jones

Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
In office
January 2009 – January 2019
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 departing 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 from the legislature to join the Texas Railroad Commission, a post she has since vacated in an unsuccessful bid for the Texas State Senate. 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-abortion interests. His critics claim that he has also undermined free enterprise economics,[1] but he counters with the claim that he is a champion for economic development, transportation, and public education.

Political career

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 Craddick 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 and is seeking a second term in 2018), 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] In 2018, however, the conservative McNutt lost the runoff campaign for representative to another Moderate Republican, Cody Harris. 57-43 percent.

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]

On June 6, 2018, Straus called for the removal of the Confederate plaque in the state Capitol. In a legal brief to state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a strong conservative, Straus claimed the plaque "misleads visitors about the cause of the Civil War." Paxton must decide whether the State Preservation Board can exert authority over the Capitol and its grounds, or if that appointed body must get permission from the Legislature.[12]

The election to choose Straus' successor

Candidates who ran in the March 6 primary to succeed Straus were Matthew Stewart "Matt" Beebe (born November 3, 1973), a pro-life 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, a San Antonio lawyer, a 12-year member of the Alamo Heights Independent School District trustees, and a former VIA transit board member.[13]

In the primary, Matt Beebe led the field with 4,351 votes (29.5 percent) and will face the runner-up, Steve Allison, who polled 3,884 (26.3 percent), in the May 22 runoff election. Soules barely finished third with 13.2 percent of the vote. The four eliminated candidates divided the remaining 44.2 percent of the ballots cast.[14] The next month Straus endorsed Allison as his preferred successor. Beebe noted that Allison opposes the failed "bathroom bill" and has hostile "views on the Second Amendment, [and an] unwillingness to enable parents to have meaningful options for their children's education, [and refuses] to pledge support for the Republican caucus choice for House Speaker." Beebe added that he finds "voters increasingly realizing Steve Allison is out of touch with their values."[15]

Beebe favored having the Republican caucus choose the party's nominee for Speaker. Allison in contrast favors opening the floor for all nominations, with 76 of the 150 members required for a simple majority to become the Speaker. Beebe noted that statewide and in the district voters in the Republican primary approved a non-binding referendum that the Republican caucus should submit the party's nominee for Speaker.[16] Straus's candidate, Allison won the runoff over Beebe, 6,054 (57.5 percent) to 4,482 (42.5 percent).[17]

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 Spicewood, west 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. Meanwhile in Texas, Confederate Plaque. Texas Monthly. Retrieved on June 8, 2018.
  13. "Pick Allison to replace Straus in 121", The San Antonio Express-News, February 16, 2018, p. 14A.
  14. Election Returns. Texas Secretary of State (March 6, 2018). Retrieved on March 7, 2018.
  15. Jasper Scherer, "Straus endorses Allison for District 121", The San Antonio Express-News, April 20, 2018, p. A4.
  16. Jasper Scherer, "Allison, Beebe disagree on how to pick speaker", The San Antonio Express-News, April 28, 2018, pp. 1, A11.
  17. Republican Primary Runoff Election Returns for Congressional District 21. Texas Secretary of State (May 22, 2018). Retrieved on May 23, 2018.