Toxic Joe

Joe Straus
House Speaker Joe Straus

With the race for the leadership of the Texas House heating up, many are feigning surprise that incumbent moderate Joe Straus hasn’t released a list of supporters despite increasingly brittle claims of invincibility.

The reason, according to his supporters, is that Team Straus recognizes that the speaker is “toxic” with the grassroots. That’s the word used in at least a dozen conversations over the last several weeks by a handful of Straus supporters trying to bring more lawmakers to their side.

One incumbent legislator told a colleague that the speaker didn’t want his “many supporters” to feel heat from the grassroots during December.

It’s an interesting strategy, and a telling admission. They know voters have little confidence in Mr. Straus’ leadership, and yet are so beholden to appeasing the cronies Straus represents, they’re working to get others to betray their constituents!

Bryan Hughes
State Rep. Bryan Hughes

Sadly, only two dozen of the 95 Republicans have scheduled the GOP Platform-required town hall meetings with their constituents to discuss leadership issues. Time is short, since these meetings are supposed to happen before the start of the legislative session in early January.

For months, State Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola has been quietly working his candidacy, after announcing for the office in May. There are rumors swirling that his colleague and ally, State Rep. David Simpson of Longview, might be stepping into the race as well.

Stories in Austin also have it that several Straus lieutenants have been requesting meetings with legislators, feeling out the waters for a coup d’état.

Possessing generally the same amount of legislative experience Mr. Straus did when he took the gavel, Mr. Simpson is — like Mr. Hughes — well liked by legislators and citizens alike.

David Simpson
State Rep. David Simpson

During the last legislative session, Mr. Simpson took to the floor of the House decrying Straus’ inconsistent application of House rules.

Since then, Mr. Simpson has spoken out against the Straus leadership team’s use of redistricting as a weapon of revenge against legislators.

Mr. Simpson knows a thing or two about beating powerful incumbents. He entered the legislature by defeating one of Joe Straus’ closest allies, Tommy Merritt. This year, the Straus Team had Merritt try to retake the seat, only to be easily defeated by Mr. Simpson.

The race is far from over, and the advantages an incumbent House Speaker wields are not inconsequential. Yet by having not released the names of his supporters and daily acknowledging his toxicity, the case gets stronger that Joe Straus has neither the popular appeal, nor even the internal support, to continue as Speaker.
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