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Texas House Republicans Set to Elect NARAL-Favored Candidate for Speaker

Texas House Republicans Set to Elect NARAL-Favored Candidate for Speaker

AUSTIN, Texas — Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) is now virtually guaranteed to be victorious in his re-election for Speaker, as thirty five more Republican State Representatives announced this week that they would endorse him. Straus has faced ongoing criticism that he has failed to advance a conservative legislative agenda that reflects the will of the Texas people on a number of key issues, most notably the issue of protecting the unborn. This week’s surge of endorsements has fanned the flames of discontent among pro-life advocates that the Texas House under Straus’ leadership will once again fail to promote pro-life issues.

As Breitbart Texas Managing Director Brandon Darby reported Monday, the differences between Straus and challenger Scott Turner (R-Rockwall) are especially sharp when it comes to the issue of abortion, with Straus receiving favorable grades and support from pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League). Turner, on the other hand, was endorsed by Texas Right to Life and received a greater than perfect score last session, because he had a perfect voting record on their scored votes and earned bonus points for co-sponsoring several pro-life bills.

Because the Democrat Members in the House are in the minority with only 52 seats, they cannot elect one of their own as Speaker, but have instead unanimously supported Straus against a more conservative Republican. Winning election requires a simple majority out of the 150 members of the House, or 76 votes. This means that because Straus has the support of the Democrats, he needs the support of only 24 Republicans in order to secure re-election. With this week’s endorsements plus the seven who announced their support last week, Straus has more than enough Republican votes, and a margin of victory that will survive even if there are multiple defections.

The new endorsements came in four separate announcements, spaced over three days, and using remarkably similar language. The first, an email received by Breitbart Texas titled “Statement Regarding Upcoming Session” Monday afternoon, contained an announcement from Representatives John Otto (R-Dayton), Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), Chris Paddie (R-Marshall), Travis Clardy (R-Jacksonville), Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia), and Representatives-elect Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) and Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) that they were “proud to support the re-election of Speaker Joe Straus” and that they believed that Straus would be “decisively re-elected because he encourages members to vote in their districts’ best interests and because he is a fair, principled leader.”

Like last week’s statement from Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake), Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton), Phil King (R-Weatherford), Myra Crownover (R-Lake Dallas), James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), and Drew Springer (R-Muenster), this statement also cites several “accomplishments under Speaker Straus’s leadership,” and the first one listed — “Banning abortions after 20 weeks and tightening restrictions on providers” — is a reference to HB 2, the abortion bill that was infamously the target of Democrat Wendy Davis’ 2013 filibuster. 

Texas pro-life advocates are not so quick to give Straus credit for the passage of HB 2. As Breitbart Texas reported:

During the 2013 Legislative Session, Straus did not allow a single pro-life bill to the floor during the Regular Session. It was only when Governor Rick Perry forced the issue by adding pro-life legislation to the first special session that Straus was forced to allow a floor vote on legislation affecting pro-life issues. Straus and his supporters countered that bills like HB 2 simply got entangled in the legislative process, but the fact is that the Speaker’s political capital was spent on giving other bills a higher priority to get through calendars and to the floor for a vote, ahead of HB 2…

An added source of frustration for pro-life advocates is that if HB 2 had not been left so late in the first Special Session in 2013, Wendy Davis would have been unable to endure a filibuster long enough to kill the bill. Davis’ filibuster was the singular event that launched her as a national celebrity for liberals and made it possible for a previously unremarkable State Senator to conceive of running for Governor. In other words, but for the timing of the vote, Davis would have not been able to attempt a filibuster, and Texas could have been spared the drama of her negative campaign against Greg Abbott.

The Representatives conclude by saying that they “are committed to upholding conservative principles that limit government, protect individual rights, encourage free markets, and protect family values” and that they support Straus’ re-election as Speaker because they “know Speaker Straus supports these principles too.” That statement stands in stark contrast to Straus’ history of failing to expend political capital to advance pro-life bills, and as Darby wrote, “these House Republicans are, in essence, showing that the protection of the unborn is an issue that they are willing to compromise on in order to not lose political power and the ability to get other bills passed.”

The next endorsement was a short, single paragraph statement emailed to Breitbart Texas Tuesday morning, adding Representatives Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park), Marsha Farney (R- Georgetown), Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), Kyle Kacal (R-Hillister), Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Eagle Lake), J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville), Doug Miller (New Braunfels), Geanie W. Morrison (R-Victoria), John Raney (R-Bryan), Paul Workman (R-Austin) and Representatives-elect Rick Galindo (R-San Antonio) and Jason Issac (R-Dripping Springs) to the list of Straus’ endorsements.

This statement uses some nearly identical language: the Representatives declare themselves “conservative Members of the Texas House” who are “proud to support the re-election of Speaker Joe Straus,” who they claim “will be decisively re-elected because he encourages members to vote in their districts’ best interests and because he is a fair, principled leader.” 

The third endorsement was from Representatives Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), Dan Flynn (R-Canton), Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), Angie Chen Button (R-Richardson), Kenneth Sheets (R-Dallas), James White (R-Woodville), Cindy Burkett (R-Garland), and Representatives-elect Linda Koop (R-Dallas) and Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) in an email from Sheets’ Chief of Staff Dustin Meador, received by Breitbart Texas on Tuesday afternoon. Using very similar language as their colleagues’ endorsements, this statement says that the Representatives “proudly add our support for Speaker Joe Straus,” under whose leadership “Texas is not just an economic leader, [but also] again [leads] the nation in passing legislation protecting innocent life and raising the standards for women’s healthcare.”

The most recent endorsement was received by Breitbart Texas on Wednesday evening, and added West Texas Representatives Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Lampasas), Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), John Frullo (R-Lubbock), Ken King (R-Pampa), Susan King (R-Abilene), Four Price (R-Amarillo), and John Smithee (R-Amarillo) to the list of Straus endorsers. Once again, the Representatives declared themselves “conservative Members of the Texas House” who supported the re-election of Straus, claimed Straus deserved credit for passing conservative bills including HB 2, and said that Straus “will be decisively re-elected because he encourages members to vote in their districts’ best interests and because he is a fair, principled leader.”

The fact that individual Republican Representatives from different areas across this very large and diverse state are not just sending out letters endorsing Straus, but are using such oddly identical language in carefully timed releases, suggests that a coordinated effort is taking place. This mimicked language reminds one of the plot in the Academy Award-nominated 1962 movie “The Manchurian Candidate,” in which the soldiers are all brainwashed to describe another character by saying, “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.” Considering Straus’ long-rumored reputation for controlling his chamber with an iron fist behind the scenes, an analogy to the movie may be even more apt. 

Whether Straus will prove to be a Manchurian Candidate for NARAL and Planned Parenthood again this session, or whether he will finally put action behind the empty promises he has served to the pro-life cause since becoming Speaker shall remain to be seen.

Current list of Representatives and Representatives-elect who have endorsed Straus for re-election as Speaker, in alphabetical order:

  • Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin)
  • Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Lampasas)
  • Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia)
  • Cindy Burkett (R-Garland)
  • Angie Chen Button (R-Richardson)
  • Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake)
  • Travis Clardy (R-Jacksonville)
  • Myra Crownover (R-Lake Dallas)
  • Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park)
  • Drew Darby (R-San Angelo)
  • Marsha Farney (R- Georgetown)
  • Dan Flynn (R-Canton)
  • James Frank (R-Wichita Falls)
  • John Frullo (R-Lubbock)
  • Rick Galindo (R-San Antonio)
  • Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock)
  • Jason Issac (R-Dripping Springs)
  • Kyle Kacal (R-Hillister)
  • Ken King (R-Pampa)
  • Phil King (R-Weatherford)
  • Susan King (R-Abilene)
  • Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Eagle Lake)
  • Linda Koop (R-Dallas)
  • Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker)
  • J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville)
  • Doug Miller (New Braunfels)
  • Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas)
  • Geanie W. Morrison (R-Victoria)
  • John Otto (R-Dayton)
  • Chris Paddie (R-Marshall)
  • Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound)
  • Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont)
  • Larry Phillips (R-Sherman)
  • Four Price (R-Amarillo)
  • John Raney (R-Bryan)
  • Kenneth Sheets (R-Dallas)
  • Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton)
  • John Smithee (R-Amarillo) 
  • Drew Springer (R-Muenster)
  • Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) 
  • James White (R-Woodville)
  • Paul Workman (R-Austin)

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker

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