Outside groups exercise influence
The speaker has had more time to consolidate his power, while the activists who oppose him have become more organized.
Miller said that Straus has come to understand what his party’s right wing wants. He proved it by delivering the deep spending cuts they demanded in 2011, Miller said. And, as a result, he is in a much better position now.
“He’s a lot stronger,” Miller said.
Straus’ office didn’t say much about the speak- er’s race, but spokesman Jason Embry said in a statement that Straus “enjoys the support of a strong, bipartisan majority of House members.” Embry said Straus is focused on improving education, strengthening the economy, addressing the state’s water needs and making the state budget more transparent.
The Texas House elects its leader at the beginning of each session. Most votes historically have taken place in the public eye, but some were in secret. Choosing a speaker used to be a very personal vote for House members, and the participation of outsiders in speakers’ races was very limited. But because of law changes in 2008, outside groups have been able exercise more influence than ever on speaker races.
Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, could be seen as an example of the evolution of Straus’ leadership headed into the next legislative session.
Fueled by cries in his district to oust the speaker, Isaac was the only member to “whitelight” his vote for Straus last session, meaning he registered as present/not voting. Isaac has had a change of heart; he is one of the members who has publicly stated his support this time for Straus.
“It boils down to House leadership,” Isaac said in a recent interview. “He’s leader of the House, and I feel like he’s got a good, solid conservative record.”
Still, some of the chamber’s more conservative members — as well as some of the state’s more conservative activists — remain unconvinced about Straus.
Rep. David Simpson, RLongview, hasn’t publicly come out in favor of any candidate, but he called Hughes “a good man and solidly conservative.”
“I’ll vote the most conservative candidate,” said Simpson, who got sideways with the speaker last session over what he said were rules violations in the debate over his bill to criminalize “aggressive pat-downs” by airport security officers.
Simpson said he will be looking for indications from Straus that he’ll follow the chamber’s rules and serve in a conservative and transparent manner. Until then, Simpson said the race to lead the House is fully up for grabs.
“This thing is pretty wide open in my estimation,” Simpson said. “And I think that is a pretty good thing.”
In 2010, anti-Straus activists used emails, social media, office visits and phone calls to try to rally opposition to Straus, who they viewed as too moderate. But their