Joe Straus will serve at least two more years as House Speaker after easily surviving a rare challenge vote that was forced by Republicans who don’t consider him conservative enough.
Straus was elected on a 127-19 vote over state Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, to serve a fourth term in the lower chamber’s highest post.
“It is my honor to be with you as we begin the next chapter in the state’s history,” Straus, R-San Antonio, said after the vote and a standing ovation. “Serving with you is a tremendous privilege. I value your trust and confidence.”
This was the first formal House Speaker vote in four decades. Generally, challengers for the post withdraw their bid once they know they don’t have the votes. But Turner and other members sought to have this vote on the record.
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After the vote, Turner, a former professional football player who drew the support of five Tarrant County representatives, congratulated Straus on his victory and said members must not be afraid to “rock the boat” or “buck the system.”
Turner encouraged fellow House members, in moving forward this session, to destroy “the chains of complacency and the shackles of status quo.”
The vote came after more than an hour of ceremony and nomination speeches — those for Straus drew support from members on the floor; those for Turner drew applause and cheers from spectators in the gallery.
Straus told the House that it’s now time to move forward.
“A small number sought to divide us with misleading and personal attacks,” he said. “But you cannot effectively govern this House by dividing it.
“What happens on this floor isn’t about any single member, myself included. This House is about something that’s bigger than all of us: It’s about a fair process that points us toward common ground, a process that rewards hard work and respects the will of every district and the judgment of every member.”
Local House members who supported Turner were Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, and Bill Zedler, R-Arlington.
Krause was among those who made speeches encouraging members to vote for Turner.
He said he wanted to address concerns about whether Turner, who is starting his second term, has the experience needed to be Speaker. So he noted that Abraham Lincoln served only two years in Congress before he was president.
“It wasn’t the longevity that counted,” Krause said. “It was the leadership that he exuded.”
After the vote, he said he was disappointed by the result.
“I think Scott was the better candidate,” he said. “But the members have spoken and I look forward to working with everyone over the next 139 days.”
A local issue
The House Speaker’s race became an important issue locally, sparking concern among some local Republican conservatives, who, led by local precinct chairman Don Shipe, made countless calls encouraging lawmakers to support Turner.
Even though top Republicans have long said Straus had the support of more than three-fourths of the chamber’s 150 members, some local Republicans maintained that Straus wasn’t conservative enough and continued making calls opposing the incumbent.
The Tarrant County Republican Party’s resolutions committee even passed a resolution calling for a conservative Speaker of the House.
Shipe, a former Tarrant County GOP vice chairman who calculates the Tarrant County Conservative Index, said he has the numbers to back up the claims that Straus isn’t conservative enough.
Based on Turner’s votes taken last session, and Straus’ votes taken when he last was a House member, Turner’s conservative index is at 97 percent. Straus is at 42, Shipe said.
“I’m disappointed,” Shipe said after the vote. “But realistically, we didn’t have much of a chance with that big a hill to climb.”
Now, though, it’s time to look forward, to what can be accomplished during the next 139 days of the session.
“Let’s try to get as many conservative issues as we can … through the Legislature,” Shipe said.
Some local lawmakers — including state Reps. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, and Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth — have drawn criticism from area Tea Party activists for deciding to support Straus.
Capriglione said Straus is the right person for the job.
“Having talked to so many constituents, Speaker Joe Straus is the person most people in my district want me to support,” he said. “Now I look forward to getting down to work for the people.”
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610
Tarrant County Delegation
Here’s a look at how local House members weighed in on the vote for House Speaker.
For Joe Straus:
Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake
Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth
Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth
Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth
Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth
Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie
For Scott Turner:
Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth
Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth
Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford
Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington
Bill Zedler, R-Arlington