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Straus Remains Confident About Role As Speaker Despite Allies Now Running To Unseat Him

Ryan E. Poppe
House Speaker Joe Straus

Speaker Joe Straus remains confident he will retain his current leadership role in the Texas House despite ongoing efforts to unseat the five-term Speaker, including from some of his closest allies who announced they will be running against him in 2019.   

Speaking at this weekend’s Texas Tribune Festival, Straus told the crowd that he wouldn’t be running for reelection in his San Antonio-area home district if he wasn’t confident he also had a shot at retaining his current role as Speaker of the Texas House in 2019.

“I mean I wouldn’t run for reelection if I didn’t think I had a leadership role, I don’t think I’d want to stay in the House if I wasn’t the presiding officer after five terms of doing so," Straus says.

Straus says he met with members of the House Republican Caucus. During the party retreat they discussed ways of ousting Straus by changing the way the Speaker is elected within the caucus to a secret ballot.

“I think it’s a bad idea, state constitution doesn’t say that the Republican Caucus binds someone to the Speaker vote, every member has a free vote when they get to the floor on the first day of the session," Straus explains.

Strauss defended himself against attacks from one of his own House committee chairs.  Weatherford Republican Phil King has announced he is seeking to unseat Straus as Speaker in 2019.

In his announcement letter, King also says House members are not allowed to represent their district’s interests when they adhere to the Speaker 's agenda. 

Straus says he spoke with King by phone briefly following the announcement.

“He said that some blogger had put out that I’ve filed for Speaker and I wanted to tell you myself, so I’m sorry I didn’t get to tell you myself, I consider us friends.  And I say well, okay, seen this movie before," Straus says.

Prof. David Brockman with Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy says while Straus has faced criticism from Freedom Caucus Republicans in the past, the recent criticism and efforts to unseat him are different. 

“The Freedom Caucus has been strengthened by the actions of the Lt. Governor and even the Governor, apparently not having confidence in Speaker Straus’ leadership and I think that is unusual," Brockman explains.

Straus is confident a majority of House Republicans support him.   Still there  is talk that multiple House members will run for Speaker in 2019.  Meantime,  Straus says he will continue to help raise money for his House friends who are facing challengers in 2018.