Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ announcement to not seek reelection in 2018 and therefore ending his career as House Speaker could mean new political chapter for the San Antonio Republican. But it could also mean certain doom for House Democrats in 2019.
After serving five terms as House Speaker, Straus says he will not seek a sixth term, which would’ve made him the longest-serving Speaker in the state’s history.
Since his accession in the House, Straus has faced increasing opposition from Tea-party backed groups. During 2017’s two legislative sessions that opposition seemed to hit a tipping point, by some questioning the Speaker’s influence and leadership concerning controversial issues like the transgender bathroom bill.
Over 50 Republican led groups have made an effort to outst Straus as Speaker, even at home, there are ongoing efforts among Bexar County Republicans to censure Straus’ leadership.
“After doing this five times and certain groups you are aware of are doing the same things again, at some point it becomes so repetitive that what I needed to do is go back home and take stock how things the district and they are very strong, maybe stronger than ever, which again indicates to me that it’s the right time to leave this job while things are looking good and strong," Straus says.
Political science Prof. Mark Jones with Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy says Straus departure from the job could present some challenges for House Democrats, who often sought help from the mainstream Republican.
“They did enjoy some influence with Speaker Straus and because the Speaker being a centrist conservative was closer to them ideologically than the rest of the Republicans. Now, I think we are going to see a House where Republican steamroll Democrats just like they do in the senate under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick," Jones explains.
While there are some House members who may be pleased to hear Straus will not return to the Texas House in 2019, others like longtime friend and House colleague Rep. Charlie Geren, a Republican from North Texas, were moved to tears after hearing the news.
“I’m going to miss him, he was a very, very close friend. I really appreciate his friendship," Geren says.
As far as Straus’ decision to not seek reelection, Geren says he could not nor would not talk about the behind-closed-doors conversation he had with Straus about the matter or his reasons for leaving.
Straus told reporters rather than fighting to another contentious legislative session, he is looking for other ways to serve, like financially and publically supporting longtime House Republican colleagues who will likely be caught in heated primary reelection bids in 2018.
Straus says he does not have any plans to run for another state office in 2018, but as far as the future goes or a possible run for governor…well, he’s leaving his options open for now.
“You know I’m not one to close doors and I have to tell you as I’ve travelled this state the response I’m getting is very, very strong and I’ve had people on a daily basis suggest that I run for another office," Straus says.
Straus says he plans to stay engaged and continue to engage voters on what they believe should be his next public role.
Straus was first elected to the Texas House of Representative in 2005, where in 2009 he was elected by its members to serve as House Speaker.