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Speaker Straus Clashing With Tea Party Opponent In HD 121 Race

  No one would argue that Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio isn't the most powerful member of the Texas House of Representatives.  Members of the House have continually elected him as their speaker since 2009.   Having the top job has often made the Alamo Heights investment consultant a target for tea party and evangelical critics who say he’s not conservative enough.

But accusations have reached a new level this primary season with opponent Jeff Judson invoking murder and religion in a series of televised campaign ads and mail outs.

In the past week, former Bexar County tea party President Jeff Judson began airing this television ad, it claims bills promoting a more conservative agenda failed under Straus’ leadership in the Texas House.

“Jeff Judson will ban sanctuary cities and protect our families, Joe Straus wouldn’t even give it a hearing, nor would he give a hearing to the Senate’s bipartisan school choice bill.”

In another ad a group supporting Judson, the Young Conservatives of Texas, further ratcheted up the rhetoric.  The group claims that Straus’s lack of support for sanctuary cities made him responsible for the murder of a Houston man killed by an undocumented immigrant.  The victim’s father recorded the ad.

“I have just one question for Joe Straus, isn’t the government supposed to protect innocent people.  When Joe Straus killed the bill to ban sanctuary cities, he put the life of an illegal alien ahead of the life of my innocent son.”

Straus has fired back .

“This isn’t the first time that I’ve been opposed with this kind of a smear campaign with things that aren’t true.”

Straus says he’s against sanctuary cities - cities that discourage their officers from asking suspects about their immigration status.  Straus says sanctuary cities bill passed the House in 2011, but was defeated in the Senate. Similar efforts failed in 2013 and 2015.

Although he’s better funded than Judson and has cruised to reelection in the past Straus is airing his own TV attack ads.  He says Judson is just another lobbyist.

“Judson is just a lobbyist, (Parrot):  Just a lobbyist, Controlled by wealthy individuals with no connection to our district.”

“Well I’m not a lobbyist, I have worked on the school choice issue which is not a special interest.”

According to paperwork filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, Judson is  registered as a lobbyist at the state capitol, advocating for school choice amongst other issues.

In addition to sanctuary cities, Straus and Judson are philosophically divided on a lot of other issues including school choice.

Judson wants to allow some families to use public school dollars for private schools of their choice.   Straus has supported more state spending for public schools and reforming the formulas used to determine how much money each school district receives from the state.

Then there’s the ongoing issue of religion.   Straus is Jewish and has on several occasions been the target of evangelical Republicans who’ve called for more “Christian Values” in the Texas House.

Judson resurrected that argument at the beginning of this campaign when he released his campaign document titled, “The Biblical Basis for Jeff Judson’s Candidacy for Texas House District 121 in the Republican Primary.”  In it he warned voters about the disconnect between the vision Christian Conservative voters have for Texas and Joe Straus’ vision.

“I have a Jewish member of my campaign staff who wrote an op-ed talking about my support for Israel, my speaking out against anti-Semitism.  The point I was trying to make is that we need people with Judeo-Christian values who want to protect our religious liberties.” 

Judson said that Straus is hostile towards religious liberties.  Straus has said no one is more able to protect religious liberties in Texas. He pointed to the House’s passage of the Pastor Protection Bill in 2015, which provides religious leaders legal protection if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages. 

Here’s Straus: “And by the way, the U.S. Constitution protects all Americans from any kind of religious persecution and allows anyone from any faith or no faith to serve in public office.”

With $8 million in the bank, Straus is expected to easily win the primary.

But presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are also on the GOP primary ballot and University of Texas at San Antonio’s Professor Bryan Gervais says they may draw more tea party voters to the polls. Gervais specializes in the study of political behavior and political psychology

“It might give some advantage to Judson in the long-run if more moderate voters aren’t turning out because they are unhappy with the choices outside of Trump and Cruz.”

Judson is no doubt hoping a strong tea party vote will tip the tables in his direction.  If his TV ads are an indication, Straus isn’t taking any chances.

A third Republican, Sheila Bean, is also running in the House District 121 race.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.