Here we go again, another non-event of a “Speaker’s Race” in Texas. As in 2010, there will be a lot of noise, a very nasty campaign full of lies and vitriolic rhetoric, and once again, when the gavel falls, it will be wielded by Speaker Joe Straus.
This year his opponents didn’t even wait until the General Election was over. They picked a trial lawyer to oppose him earlier this year and have been attacking ever since. Now that the election is over, expect the volume of attacks to increase to a roar but behind the noise, there is no substance.
First off, let me be clear. I have never met Joe Straus. I have never met anyone on his staff. The closest I’ve come to that is someone that worked for him as a contractor doing communications work. His staff has never been responsive to my requests nor have they ever helped me when I’ve asked for information on this bill or that one. I think I did get a reply once that said they’d look into it and have someone get back to me but they never did. So before you email me saying anything like that, know upfront that it isn’t true. The only reason I supported Joe Straus in the past is because of his record and the way he comported himself during the attacks on him. This is what I wrote last year after he won the battle and I stand by it:
In my lifetime, I haven’t seen a better example of statesmanship and leadership in Texas politics than Speaker Straus has shown throughout this two month attack on him. Never once did he succumb to the temptation to lash out at his juvenile acting critics, who played loose with the facts and long with the gossip and lies. He displayed the temperament and demeanor of his former boss, President Ronald Reagan.
I hope that his critics run a more honest campaign against him this year but I doubt it. And as I said last time around, it isn’t like I think Speaker Straus is entitled to the job – put up a worthwhile candidate and I’ll take a look, as I did with Bryan Hughes. After looking at the candidate, his positions, and his supporters, I do not think that Bryan Hughes would be a better Speaker than Joe Straus and I think that his stated positions in some areas will be harmful to the future of Texas.
Let’s take a quick look at Mr. Hughes and his stated positions. First, this video:
Obviously, it it mostly just typical rhetoric but if you listen closely, you can pull out his priorities:
- Real budget and spending reforms – Straus has done well in this regard. I wrote about it during the last fight. Prior to Straus, Craddick talked a good game but the budget exploded. The same people that supported Craddick support Hughes. I would much rather have a fiscal conservative like Straus leading the budget fight than a social conservative that uses budget items as gifts in trade for social conservative legislation.
- Securing our borders along with immigration reform – This is primarily a federal function. Arizona style laws or Alabama style laws will hurt the economy of Texas. There are things that we can do and I think that Straus and his team tried to do them last time but lost because some interest groups didn’t think they were radical enough. Most of this issue is pure rhetoric and Hughes has no advantage that I can see.
- Strong pro-life legislation – Last session was the most pro-life session in the history of Texas or any other state. Non-issue.
- Local control of public schools – I don’t know what he means by this because he didn’t comment on it. But I do know that we already have local control via elected school boards. The state constitution demands that the state funds a public education system. We need to figure out a better way to balance funding between property rich districts and property poor districts. I haven’t seen anything anywhere that suggests that Hughes has any fresh ideas on this issue. I think that Straus will support some form of vouchers, as long as they do not severely impact the overall school funding formula. I’ll take Straus’ approach at this point. Besides, until the lawsuit about the current financing system concludes and then winds through the appeals process, there is nothing much for the legislature to do this session.
- State may be last stand in fight against Obamacare – pure rhetoric, no ideas or substance. Hughes cannot match Straus’ knowledge of healthcare issues in Texas or how to address them.
So based solely on his own stated priorities, I see nothing substantive that he has to offer. But take a look at his idea of “decentralizing” the Texas House:
Hughes said he would decentralize power in the House, by increasing the number of seniority seats on committees and making all committees subject to seniority appointments.
That would be a disaster for Texas. It pretty much confirms what many of us think about the groups behind the attacks on Speaker Straus – they want Texas to be like Washington DC, where relics rule committees because their districts keep electing them, regardless of their ability. Think Charlie Rangel. Think Barney Frank. Think John Dingell, who has been re-elected 29 times. Regardless of whom the Speaker is, basing committee assignments on seniority is a terrible idea for Texas. Just terrible and it is hard to believe that “tea party” types are helping back a trial lawyer that is proposing this system. It is the antithesis of “tea party” mentality.
As I was drafting this post, Jay Root put up a short piece over at the Texas Tribune about Bryan Hughes’ work as a trial lawyer and his benefactors. Worth a read before you decide to support him.
But like I said, when the gavel falls, Speaker Straus will be wielding it. Robert Miller, one of the most knowledgeable sources of information about the legislature, spoke at the Greater Houston Pachyderm Club yesterday and estimated that Speaker Straus has a solid base of 85 votes – 55 Republican and 30 Democratic. He only needs 76 to win. A better approach by those that are seeking to topple him would be to work with him, gain critical committee appointments, and move legislation forward.
I think that all you need to know about Speaker Straus and his adversaries is summed up by a paragraph in an attack piece against him.
Straus is sending clear signals that his intention is to continue to marginalize the growing number of genuine conservatives Texans are sending to Austin. Consistently at the top of his to-do list during the upcoming session are water, education and infrastructure. By focusing on important things like this, and by framing all problems as lack-of-money problems, Straus can avoid discussing any of the ways to make our government more efficient.
Think about that for a minute. These people are so shallow that they admit that Speaker Straus is focusing on important issues so as to marginalize their rhetoric. That sums up this non-race completely.
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