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Joe Straus and His Lieutenants Stave Off Challengers

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and his lieutenants staved off tea party and far right-wing challengers in the Republican Party primary election.

Straus handily bested his two challengers in his siege from the far-right faction of the Texas GOP.

In the race for state representative district 121, the incumbent brought in 60.23 percent of the vote compared to Jeff Judson’s 28.45 percent, and Sheila Bean’s 11.21 percent.

The speaker easily survived the challenge, but not until spending almost $4 million on his campaign, reported the Houston Chronicle. His campaign focused on the success of Texas during his tenure as speaker and on the massive border security bill passed under his leadership.

In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas after the election, Speaker Straus said, “I want to thank the people of District 121 for their tremendous support and confidence. I’m proud of the campaign we ran and the positive message we delivered.”

Straus added, “A couple of people who live far away from here once again tried to take this seat from our community, and they have once again failed. Voters showed that angry rhetoric and dishonest ads are no match for a well-organized campaign that looks to a brighter future. It is an honor to represent the people of District 121 and I will continue to work tirelessly and gladly on their behalf.”

Straus has served as speaker of the Texas House during the last four legislative sessions, since 2009. He has been targeted and maligned by tea party activists and the most conservative camp of the party since he was elected speaker with the support of House Democrats and moderate Republicans. He has been criticized for being too close to Democrats in the Texas House.

The San Antonio representative pummeled Republican challenger Scott Turner (R-Rockwall) in 2015 in his race for speaker (127 votes to 19). Turner was a black freshman legislator who represents the communities of Frisco and Rockwall. He is a former NFL football player. Turner announced in June 2015 that he would not seek reelection to his House seat. Three candidates ran to replace Turner in HD 33. Justin Holland and John Keating are heading to a runoff election to determine who will win the nomination to replace the outgoing legislator.

Results from the Office of the Secretary of State website show that the speaker garnered 15,737 votes on election day, and 8,654 votes during early voting. Straus will be re-elected in November as he does not face a Democrat challenger in the general election.

Straus’ lieutenant, Bryon Cook (R-Corsicana), had a much closer race. A total of 222 votes separated Cook from his challenger. He received just 50.38 percent of the vote compared to Thomas McNutt’s 49.61 percent. Cook was appointed by Straus as the chairman of the powerful House State Affairs Committee. The Chronicle reported that Cook committed more than $1 million to his race, as did other Straus lieutenants Charlie Geren (R-River Oaks), and Doug Miller (R-New Braunfels).

Bryon Cook is a complaining witness in the criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as reported by Breitbart Texas. Grassroots activists have charged that Paxton’s indictment is political pay-back for his running against Straus as speaker in 2011 when Paxton was in the Texas House of Representatives.

Another Straus lieutenant, Representative Geren, was appointed by Straus as chairman of the House Administrative committee. Geren handily won his race in the Republican primary 58.23 percent to his opponent Bo French’s 41.76 percent.

Doug Miller did not fair as well as Straus’ other lieutenants and now faces a runoff with challenger Kyle Biedermann. Miller won 43.47 percent of the vote and Bierdermann came in fairly close with 39.84 percent. A third opponent, Chris Byrd came in with 16.67 percent of the vote.

Republicans in Texas have been driving their representatives further right in the past years. Straus and his lieutenants have been targeted by conservatives that say they are too moderate on issues and too cozy with Democrats. An anti-establishment attitude has also fueled opposition.

Straus is in a good position to retain his seat as speaker of the Texas House with Republicans holding almost a 2-to-1 advantage in the House chamber.

During his campaign, Straus released an ad highlighting the Texas Legislature’s efforts to address the serious issues involving the Texas-Mexico border. The ad featured Sheriff Aj (Andy) Louderback from Jackson County, Texas. The quintessential Texas sheriff discussed the border-security legislation passed in 2015 under a Straus leadership in the House.

As reported by Breitbart Texas, Sheriff Louderback, a past president of the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, has been extremely critical of President Obama and the federal government’s Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). The program has been criticized as creating a sanctuary state for criminal illegal aliens.

 

The spending between the factions was historic in this Republican primary election. The “civil war” to keep or gain power, say political consultants, resulted in “monstrous” spending levels, reported the Chronicle. Conservative millionaires and billionaires contributed large sums in an effort to defeat incumbents. There efforts were apparently unsuccessful.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2

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