Professor: Straus has backing of caucus
leadership decision, stifles representative government.”
The speaker of the House presides over the 150-member chamber and decides who will chair House committees. The speaker also refers bills to committee and controls debate on the House floor. The position is chosen by the members on the first day of the legislative session, which is Jan. 8.
Erin Daly, a spokeswoman for Straus, said in a statement that “Speaker Straus enjoys support from a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the House, and rather than campaigning for the position, he is focused on leading the House as we prepare for session.”
Simpson, a Republican from Longview who has served only one term, didn’t return calls Monday, but he said in his statement that he intends “to change the spirit of our Legislature and put the principles of liberty and open government above the politics of intimidation.”
In the past, Simpson blamed Straus for unjustly applying the House rules by adjourning the House for a lack of a quorum in an effort to derail his measure to outlaw aggressive pat-downs by security personnel at airports and other places.
Simpson said in his statement that a number of House members have offered their support for him, but he didn’t include any names. Rep. Bryan Hughes, a Republican from Mineola who dropped his candidacy Monday, came out in support of Simpson.
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, has been critical of Straus since last session. Like Simpson, Martinez Fischer slammed Straus over redistricting — though they fired at him from different angles. Simpson said the redistricting process in 2011 was not done properly, while Martinez Fischer said the speaker presided over a legislative body that approved maps that discriminated against minority voters.
Stressing that he was speaking for himself, Martinez Fischer said Straus worked fairly with Democrats in 2009. But he added that in 2011, Straus showed he was less interested in working with Democrats than in partisanship and promoting wedge issues such as sanctuary cities legislation, a bill calling for sonograms before an abortion, and reducing spending on public education and public health.
“It was a session of overreach,” Martinez Fischer said
Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said Martinez Fischer’s criticism of Straus likely could bolster the speaker’s chances for reelection. Jillson called the Democrat’s denunciation the “best thing to happen to Joe Straus within his caucus.”
Jillson gave Simpson long odds in his effort.
“The Republican caucus is more comfortable with Straus than it was two years ago,” Jillson said. “I think that two years ago, most Republicans were sort of awestruck by the force of the tea party and their organized spokesmen.” But the tea party wave has receded since 2010, Jillson said, and likely will continue to do so.