Who will be the next Speaker of the Texas House? Straus and Paxton take the battle to the floor of the Texas House
A few hundred grass roots patriots of Texas gathered Monday on the north steps of the Texas Capitol to voice their opinion that the Republican Caucus should decide who should next sit in the seat of Speaker of the Texas House. Going into the Caucus Ken Paxton and Warren Chishum were challenging sitting Speaker, Joe Straus. The issue of who the Texas Speaker should be flaired up after the overwhelming success of Texas Republicans in winning an unprecedented 99 seats in the November 2010 general election. Since the election, two Democrats changed parties, bringing the majority to a super-majority 101 Republicans.
Dedicated "anti-Straus" supporters lined the entryway of the Reagan building, just outside the Texas Capitol. This would be the scene for the Republican Caucus to meet and decide on who would next sit in the chair of Speaker. Onlookers watched as the Republican legislators (freshmen reps included) filed into the secluded room where all hoped the fate of the issue was resolved.
After Saturday's shooting of Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona, security was heightened and there was no way for anyone to get close to the actual caucus meeting. After about 45 minutes, the word came out that the caucus was over. TexasGOPVote was the first to report that Speaker Straus had received 70 of the 100 Republicans present. Note: Freshman Rep Sarah Davis was the only rep absent due to a cancer screen scheduled prior to the caucus meeting. Davis is a recent cancer survivor.
I caught Speaker Straus as he exited the caucus meeting. He expressed in a short video interview that he went into the caucus with strong support and he left the caucus with strong support. He said he is prepared to move forward with the business of the people in this legislative session. Here is what he had to say.
After the caucus I had the opportunity to speak with several legislators on both sides of the Speaker's race and ask them their impressions of the caucus and their issues as they look forward to the new legislative session.
Texas Representative Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) spoke with me on the edge of the Capitol Rotunda. He explained how he witnessed and participated in the caucus meeting. We discussed the Conservative agenda facing the House and some other issues important to him and his district.
Next I met with my representative, Mr. Allen Fletcher (R-Tomball/Houston) in his new office. This is Fletcher's second term in the Legislature. We talked in more detail about the process of the caucus meeting and how, as one of the most conservative members of the 2009 Texas Legislature, he could support Speaker Straus and work his Conservative legislative issues through the process under this Speaker. Fletcher also took the opportunity to discuss specific legislation important to him and his constituants. As the only retired police officer in the legislture, Fletcher is deeply concerned about border security and the threat of the violence in Mexico spilling over into the United States.
After speaking with these two reps about the Caucus meeting it sounded as if the issue was all but over at this point. Well, perhaps not. It seems there is still a fight brewing over the position of Texas Speaker.
I ran into Tyler representative Leo Berman who expressed a different viewpoint about where the Speaker's race was headed. Berman is never shy about expressing how he feels about an issue important to his voters. With strong conservative legislation at stake, he is looking to be more productive in the new session. From what he had to say in his brief interview, the race is far from over.
Next, I found freshman Rep. David Simpson from Longview. He was in a hurry to meet up with Paxton supporters at a rally being staged at a hotel just off the Capitol campus. He stopped long enough to say "Our constituents demand transparancy in this matter. Tomorrow Warren Chishum will throw his support behind Ken Paxton and there will be a recorded vote on the floor of the Texas House so every rep's constituents will know how they voted." Simpson fought a very difficult primary race last year to unseat a RINO Republican who believed there was no place in the Texas Legislature for the Constitution of the United States.
Finally, I contacted one of the key figures in the debate over the Speaker's race, Mr. Bryan Hughes. Previously, I had interviewed Mr. Hughes about a statement made to him by Rep. Phillips about possible retaliation for members who did not stand with Speaker Straus. Today I spoke with Mr. Hughes about the plans for the opening day of the Legislative Session and what their plans were to get Mr. Paxton elected to the Speaker's chair.
So, it would seem the stage is set for a battle on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives between Joe Straus and Ken Paxton as to who will be the Speaker of the 2011 Legislative Session. While it certainly appears Mr. Straus has all the votes he needs to continue as Speaker, many people and organizations are wanting to make certain their reps are on the record for this vote. In an interesting side note, I heard from a source to remain unnamed, Mr. Paxton may be pulling a card from Straus' 2009 playbook by approaching House Democrats to build a coalition support for Paxton's bid for Speaker. Isn't this just the kind of thing that people are complaining about as to why they want Straus replaced? As someone said on the TexasGOPVote Facebook page, "The more things change, the more they stay the same!"
My fellow GOP Voters, we, as Texas Republicans, are poised to lead the United States back from the brink of the abyss that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama have driven our nation to. As asked for by the voters, a Republican Caucus has been held and a choice for speaker was made. On the opening day, a final decision will be made as to who the speaker will be. The time has come for us to unite to move the Conservative Agenda forward in Texas. We have a massive budget deficit that MUST be resolved without raising taxes. We have an historic redistricting task to accomplish and there are important border security, illegal immigration, pro-life and integrity-of-the-vote bills that must be passed. The problem with passing bills in this session will be the Texas Senate, not the House. Let's work together to accomplish our goals and make this the most successful conservative session in Texas legislative history!