AUSTIN, Texas — Twenty-one more Texas House Republican Representatives and Representatives-elect have endorsed Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) for re-election as Speaker, despite concerns from conservative grassroots activists and pro-life advocates that Straus is too moderate on the abortion issue.
Fifty-two had previously announced their support for Straus, as Breitbart Texas reported, bringing the total number of Representatives now endorsing Straus to seventy-three, over challenger Scott Turner (R-Rockwall), who has a stronger record on pro-life issues and the support of many grassroots activists.
The latest endorsements, emailed to Breitbart Texas, were very similar to their predecessors: emailed statements touting the “conservative accomplishments” of the House and endorsing Straus, praising his leadership and commenting that he is guaranteed to win re-election. All of the endorsement statements have been spaced out over the past few weeks, with the Representatives and Representatives-elect roughly grouped by geographic region of the state. That, plus the similar language present in many of the endorsements, suggested a coordinated effort behind the scenes.
Thursday’s endorsement included Representatives Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), Gary Elkins (R-Houston), Allen Fletcher (R-Houston), Patricia Harless (R-Spring), Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), Jim Murphy (R-Houston), Debbie Riddle (R-Houston), and Wayne Smith (R-Baytown), and Representative-elect Gilbert Pena (R-Houston). Just like previous statements from other Representatives endorsing Straus, this one bragged about several conservatives “accomplishments” of the Texas House, although some of the claims could arguably be challenged. For example, the statement takes credit for increasing border security spending, which is true, but also takes credit for the border surge, which launched this summer when the Legislature was not in session, as well as the extension of the surge through next August. True, Straus did sign a letter along with Governor Rick Perry and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, but with the House not being in Session, this is not a matter for which he can be credited as leading his chamber to take action.
This endorsement statement claims credit for HB 2, Texas’ law banning late-term abortions and requiring increased safety standards at clinics. As Breitbart Texas reported, pro-life advocates are not quite willing to give Straus credit for passing HB 2:
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.
Monday’s endorsement added Speaker Pro Tempore Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), Representatives Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco), Dr. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land), Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton), Ed Thompson (R-Pearland), and Representatives-elect DeWayne Burns (R-Burleson), Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston), Will Metcalf (R-Conroe), Andrew Murr (R-Kerrville), Dennis Paul (R-Houston), and John Wray (R-Waxahachie), to the list of Straus supporters. This statement was a simple one-paragraph statement, using some of the same exact language used in many of the other statements endorsing Straus: “As conservative Members of the Texas House, we are proud to support the re-election of Speaker Joe Straus. Speaker 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 official vote for Speaker will be on January 13, 2015, after the new Representatives-elect are sworn into office. Straus needs a simple majority of the 150 House Members to secure re-election, or 76 votes. With the 73 Republicans who have publicly endorsed him so far this month, Straus has nearly enough votes from the Republican caucus alone to secure re-election, and is expected to be supported by the Democrats as well. Because the Democrats have been in the minority, they cannot elect one of their own as Speaker, and prefer Straus over a more conservative candidate.
The vast majority of the Republicans who have endorsed Straus campaigned as pro-life candidates. The powerful Calendars Committee, which operates as a gatekeeper before bills can reach the floor for a debate and vote, is dominated by Straus allies, including its chair. The question remains whether the 84th Legislative Session under Straus’ control once again will allow pro-life bills to move forward or if pro-life advocates will continue to find the Members’ claims of dedication to conservative principles ringing hollow and false.