Out­side groups ex­er­cise in­flu­ence

Speaker

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - A

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

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