Speaker Strauss will not seek re-election

POLITICAL EARTHQUAKE: “TEXAS HOUSE SPEAKER JOE STRAUS says he will not seek re-election,” The Texas Tribune’sMatthew Watkins — Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election in 2018, a decision that has the potential to upend the political balance of power in the state.

Straus, who has lately been the most powerful moderate Republican in the Texas Capitol, said he will serve until the end of his term. That means there will be a new speaker when the Legislature next convenes in 2019. … Within hours of Straus’ announcement, one of his top lieutenants, Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, announced that he had filed to run for the speaker’s post. State Rep.Phil King, R-Weatherford, had previously announced his candidacy, and others are expected to jump in.” Texas Tribune
SEE HIM EXPLAIN WHY: Interview with The Texas Tribune’s Alana RochaVideo (8 min)
GRIEDER COLUMN: “MOURNING IN TEXAS after Joe Straus decides he’s done,” The Houston Chronicle’s Erica Grieder — “Still, the news was wholly unexpected and represents a DEFCON 1 situation for the state, given its implications for state politics. It means that the Texas House will have new leadership when the 86th Legislature convenes in 2019.

[Speaker Joe] Straus’s critics, on the far right, were thrilled to learn that. Removing the speaker has long been their top priority, even if they have never managed to do anything about it. … Most Texans, however, were distinctly less jubilant. The fact is that Straus has always been well-regarded, on both sides of the aisle. His critics are more ferocious than cogent and, in any case, they’re not numerous.

And since 2015, Straus’ steady leadership in the House has taken on outsized importance. In January, Texans inaugurated a new governor and lieutenant governor, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick, the latter of whom seemingly presides over the former in addition to the Texas Senate.” Houston Chronicle
“WHAT WILL JOE STRAUS DO WITH HIS $10 MILLION in unspent campaign funds?” The Texas Tribune’s Jim Malewitz and Alana Rocha — [Joe] Straus, a powerful moderate Republican who has served as speaker for five terms, reported nearly $10 million in unspent campaign cash through June, according to a filing with the Texas Ethics Commission.

On Wednesday, he told The Texas Tribune he would spread the wealth to Republicans who are running in 2018. … State ethics laws grant elected officials wide latitude on how they use their political contributions while in office — as long as purchases somehow relate to campaigning or state businesses and aren’t for “personal use,” an often ambiguous term.

Straus has 14 months left in his term, meaning he could also keep spending campaign cash on items in his official capacity, such as on office supplies, staff gatherings, housing in Austin and transportation to and from meetings or conferences. Former Texas elected officials often continue to use the funds on their way out of office. Texas Tribune
–“WHAT’s NEXT FOR SPEAKER STRAUS? He won’t say” The Houston Chronicle’s Andrea Zelinski – State House Speaker Joe Straus – championed by moderates as their best hope for stopping Texas from passing divisive social issues into law – announced unexpectedly Wednesday he will not seek re-election and left the door open to a possible run for governor.

The San Antonio Republican said he plans to make his voice heard in a more vocal way but declined to say how. While Straus said he would “highly doubt” he will appear anywhere on a 2018 ballot, he said he didn’t want to rule out a possible statewide race.

“I’m not one to close doors,” he said.

What Straus would commit to was taking the opportunity to speak his mind in a way he hadn’t before after spending five terms overseeing the House chamber of 150 members, most of whom are embroiled in a tumultuous struggle over the heart and soul of the Republican Party. …

Straus plans to serve out the remaining 14 months of his House term representing a north San Antonio district and the finishing out his speakership. He said he will still spend this year’s election cycle supporting “responsible Republicans who face challenges in the primary.”

Supporters suggest daily that he run for another office, he said.

“I don’t have plans to do that, but I will be looking forward to speaking out more and more on issues that I think are important for people. What that leads to, we’ll have to see,” he said.

Straus acknowledged his name ID among voters statewide is low. He called that a fact that “brings me back to Earth once in a while when I see that.”

Unlike the lieutenant governor, the House speaker is a state representative elected by his peers in that chamber.

Between lower name recognition and his position to the left of tea party Republicans, Straus is unlikely to have a viable chance to win election statewide, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science expert teaching at the University of Houston. Straus represents a wing of the Republican Party that is likely to be out-voted by more conservative voters of the party, he said.

“I don’t think money is the problem. It’s just the perception that he’s too liberal for Republican ideas of Texas,” said Rottinghaus.

Instead, the soon-to-be retired speaker could position himself as a supporter of candidates challenging conservative Republicans from the center, he said.

“In the future, when there are more distinct coalitions of moderate Republicans who are challenging more conservative Republicans, you can see Straus as a potential future kingmaker,” said Rottinghaus. Houston Chronicle

–“CONSERVATIVES SEE CHANCE TO GET NEW SPEAKER MORE LIKE THEM” The Houston Chronicle’s Jeremy Wallace – Texas will not pick another House Speaker like it did Joe Straus, a leading Republican in the Texas Legislature is vowing.

State Rep. Matt Schaefer, a Tyler Republican who leads the Texas Freedom Caucus, said his group is nearing passing rules that will prevent a Republican candidate like Straus from becoming speaker on the back of Democratic support.

“This is really a great opportunity for conservatives,” Schaefer said.

In 2009, Straus won enough votes to become Speaker by cobbling together votes from Democrats and Republicans. Under the new rules the Freedom Caucus has proposed, only Republicans would have a vote in nominating a candidate for Speaker of the House, with no input from Democrats.

That is how other states work, Schaefer said. In Oklahoma and Ohio, Republicans pick their speaker without letting Democrats have influence.

“Texas is really out of step about how it chooses its Speaker,” Schaefer said.

The process started in August at the close of the special session. The Freedom Caucus officially requested a meeting to discuss the rule change among Republican members. They got that meeting at the end of the session and later agreed during a retreat to put together a study committee to offer a formal recommendation on the rule change.

“I think its going to happen, but I don’t want to speculate when,” Schaefer said about the rule change.

Schaefer said voters have been sending conservatives into statewide office and into the Legislature, but the progress has been stymied by the way Straus was chosen speaker in the first place.

“Overall we are a Republican state and we are electing conservative legislators, but we haven’t governed that way,” Schaefer said.

The rule change is just what the Texas Republican Party has been calling for too. In a statement to the media the Republican Party of Texas ChairmanJames Dickey said the party has platform plank 70, which calls from speaker candidates to be selected by secret ballots by all Republicans in the House.

Schaefer said he has no idea who will come out on top to replace Straus. He said it is a wide open race and the Freedom Caucus is more focused on making sure the process is in place, not a specific person. Houston Chronicle