Setting the Record Straight on Joe Straus

Another hugely successful season for Republicans is behind us, which gives us plenty of reasons to unite to accomplish even more. Unfortunately, a coordinated, professional smear machine is having none of it, and another faux Speaker’s race has begun.

The machine responsible for these Speaker “races” incites followers with half-truths, distortions and lies. The behavior of the incited is anything but civil. Supporters of Speaker Straus, including those who are not even elected officials, have been the subject of threats, intimidation and character assassination. Will our offices be vandalized or burglarized again as they have multiple times during previous “races?”

A brief look at the House record under Speaker Joe Straus shows a number of high profile victories, many of which have been challenged in court by liberals:

  1. Passed the strongest sonogram bill in the nation 
  2. Defunded Planned Parenthood 
  3. Passed the Choose Life License Plates bill which has already raised $80K for adoption counseling at adoption agencies and pregnancy help centers 
  4. Passed HB 2, the pro-life omnibus bill setting the standard across the nation, closing many substandard clinics
  5. Passed one of the nation’s toughest Voter ID laws 
  6. Protected the Rainy Day Fund, while balancing three budgets without raising taxes, keeping Texas at 4th lowest in per capita spending in nation

Claims that Speaker Straus is a roadblock to conservative legislation can only be described as revisionist history. Much of the rhetoric coming from the “Oust Straus!” crowd is absurd. From “It Might be [read: Probably is!] a Sin to Vote for Straus!” to the latest, “Texas House Republicans Choosing Political Gain Over the Unborn,” we’ve heard it all.

Despite last year’s landmark victories for life, the smear machine continues to peddle the lie that Speaker Straus is hostile to the life issue. As “evidence” they point out that HB 2 was passed in a special session and not the regular one. As president of one of the largest pro-life organizations in Texas and one who has worked to pass pro-life legislation for decades, including HB 2, I can personally attest to Speaker Straus’ support of pro-life legislation.

Straus’ detractors conveniently omit the fact that there was no way Straus could have not known what we all knew: Democrats had secured a hard block in the Senate that only a special session could overcome. No speaker will sacrifice the calendar in the waning days of a session for a contentious bill that has no chance in the senate.

And then there’s the not-so-subtle argument found more often in whispers than print. You know, the one about We Just Need a Christian Speaker. So, pray for his conversion then. Isn’t it more important that we have a righteous man, one of integrity, reason and fairness in the chair? Not all self-proclaimed Christians fit that bill, but after working with Speaker Straus for three sessions now, I am confident that he does. Apparently a lot of House members have come to that same conclusion, many of whom originally opposed him.

I notice that the standard for Speakers has changed a lot since 2009. Prior to that, it was apparently perfectly acceptable to make pro-lifers pull down their pro-life bill to prevent other bills from being talked to death. It was OK to go two sessions without a single pro-life bill making it to the floor, even when we had 88 Republicans and quite a few more pro-life Democrats.

Republicans didn’t even seem to mind that the Sonogram bill was effectively shut down by Republicans in 2009, after Calendars had placed it third on the Major State Calendar. One prominent Republican went so far as to tell me point blank they could not, would not pull down Voter ID (which everyone knew was already dead) to stop Democrats’ from chubbing, because there were other votes they did not want making it to the floor. Still, the smear machine insists, “It’s Straus’ fault!!!”

Many of the activists opposing Speaker Straus were also active during the term of the prior Speaker. There were no complaints about conservative bills that died, evil pledge cards, his ruling with a heavy hand; no concern about threats bandied about by his lieutenants then even though it was well known to be the case. Basically, he was their guy, so it was OK.

And that’s what it all boils down to really: Straus is just not their guy. The folks fanning the flames against Straus didn’t pick him and he hasn’t kissed the ring. It’s certainly not for lack of a conservative, pro-life record and it’s not for lack of trying, at least on Straus’ part. I have lost count how many colleagues and members have said, “Man, if he just passes this bill, we won’t oppose him next time!” And then they turn right around and oppose him anyway.

In 2010, I nervously endorsed Joe Straus for Speaker. I was nervous, knowing I would be standing against many friends in doing so. Nevertheless, I knew Straus to be the pro-life incumbent, and I could not remain silent.

In the middle of the ensuing scorched-earth campaign (against both the Speaker and myself), Joe Straus publicly reassured me that he would not let me down.

I am happy to report that he has not let me down, and I am proud to support him. God bless Texas, and God bless Joe Straus!

Kyleen Wright is President of Texans for Life Coalition.


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