AUSTIN, Texas — The vote for the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives for the 84th Legislative Session will not take place until January, but the battle is already heating up. As Breitbart Texas reported, State Representative Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) shocked members of the NE Tarrant County Tea Party on Monday when he told them he would be supporting the current Speaker, Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), for reelection over Representative Scott Turner (R-Rockwall). Now, in a press release emailed to Breitbart Texas late Thursday night, six more Republican State Representatives have declared their support for Straus.
Joining Capriglione are 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), who emailed the release to Breitbart Texas with a short message that it was “from leading North Texas conservatives on our position on the 84th session.” Straus was first elected Speaker in 2009, largely on the votes of the Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House. Since first taking up the Speaker’s gavel, Straus has faced criticism from various conservative groups and grassroots activists who view him as more of a moderate.
The Representative’s release (embedded at the end of this article) begins by saying that the November 4th elections provided Republicans with “a clear mandate to oppose Obama-like policies at all levels of government,” which “will be a difficult task and requires unprecedented unity among Republicans as we enter the 84th Legislature in January.” After mentioning several recent accomplishments of the Texas House — passing of the sonogram bill and HB 2, defunding Planned Parenthood, increased border security funding, rejection of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and refusal to set up a Texas Obamacare Exchange, balancing budgets without raising taxes, passing Voter ID, etc. — the letter states that for this record to continue, “we must work as a Republican team in order to combat the Democrat liberal agenda.”
Empower Texans President Michael Quinn Sullivan, a vocal opponent of Straus, strongly disagreed with the Representatives’ characterization of their voting record in their release. [Disclosure: Sullivan is a Breitbart Texas contributor.] Sullivan told Breitbart Texas that “these folks are re-writing history,” noting that “not a single conservative taxpayer reform has passed the Texas House — not spending limits, not zero-based budgeting, not a one.” Sullivan also took issue with them claiming credit for HB 2, noting that “no pro-life measures were even given a hearing, let alone floor debate, by the Texas House until Governor Perry forced Straus’ hand with a special session.”
Quoting the “Reagan Rule” that a person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is an ally, not a 20 percent enemy, the release continues that “No action of the Legislature is more divisive than a Speaker’s race…Over 80% of the Republican members of the Texas House support the reelection of Speaker Straus and we are among those ranks,” making the claim that Turner only has, at best, 20 votes out of 150.
Capriglione made a similar comment to the NE Tarrant County Tea Party on Monday, that “over 80 percent of representatives don’t support Turner.” Other Republican State Representatives in attendance disagreed with him. “I think Turner has more support,” said Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), “He’s a unique leader and would make a tremendous Speaker of the House.” Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) added, “It is a dangerous place to be if we vote based on what we think will be the outcome.” Sullivan had a similar reaction, telling Breitbart Texas that it was a “slight logical inconsistency” for the Straus allies to claim that the Speaker’s race was both “divisive” while also insisting that there was no real contest at all. “They’re trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy and drive him from the race so they don’t have to make a choice on the record,” Sullivan said.
The release ends with the writers’ declarations of their “strong conservative voting records” and commitment to “focusing on the important issues of advancing freedoms, limited government and the values that have made Texas great.”
Capriglione faced an immediately hostile reaction from the Tarrant County tea partiers when he made his comments on Monday, especially since he had won his seat by defeating in a primary a more moderate Republican who had been viewed as an ally to Straus, Vicki Truitt, in 2012. The North Texas Tea Party posted an all-caps message on their Facebook page that any representative who voted for Straus over Turner would be precluded from gaining the group’s endorsement, and other similar sentiments have been posted on social media by conservative activists for the past few days.
The six new Representatives who have joined Capriglione in supporting Straus are likely to face a similar backlash. Sullivan was openly disdainful of their declarations for party unity, telling Breitbart Texas that “no one involved actually supports Straus,” adding, “Everybody would sell him out, including his closest allies, if the opportunity was right, because Straus doesn’t give anyone a single thing to believe in. Every relationship he has is a relationship of convenience.”
“Every vote Straus has [for Speaker] is built on convenience or fear of retribution,” Sullivan concluded.
The press release from Representatives Parker, Simmons, King, Crownover, Springer, Capriglione, and Frank was received by Breitbart Texas at nearly 10:30 p.m. Central Time. Requests for comment by email reply to Springer and to Straus’ office were not returned at the late hour. Breitbart Texas will continue to follow the story of the Speaker’s race and provide updates as the story develops.
Photo of Speaker Joe Straus provided courtesy of The Texas Tribune Festival.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.