MCALLEN, RGV – Every chance he got between the end of the regular legislative session and the start of the special session, state Rep. Bobby Guerra gave high praise to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.
In a speech at an RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Guerra, a Democrat, said of Straus, a Republican: “I have to commend Speaker Straus for holding the bar, making sure, as best he can, that all Texans are taken care of. He works very well with the Valley delegation. He is a good man. He has a good heart. He is very business-oriented. But, he also says, let’s take care of our public schools, our teachers and our students.”
Guerra made similar remarks during a roundtable discussion about the 85th Legislature hosted by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.
Guerra’s views, however, are of little value to Hidalgo County Republican Party. In a recent straw poll of precinct chairs, a vote of “no confidence” in Straus was passed, 20 to zero, with seven abstentions.
“The precinct chair straw poll was a reaction to other GOP executive committees in Texas, namely San Antonio GOP, calling special meetings to voice their vote,” said Hidalgo County Republican Party Chairman Sergio Sanchez. “I had two to three precinct chairs here ask if could call a special meeting to vote ‘no confidence.’ I decided on straw poll. I and too many other folks work for a living; (we’re) too busy for such a small meeting.”
One person delighted with the result of the straw poll on Straus is Jim Barnes, president of the McAllen/Hidalgo County Tea Party.
“Texas is completing a transition that has been a part of the Texas psyche from the beginning. Texas’ spirit of individuality, personal freedom, and opportunity to reach the American Dream has always been there but it is taking time to fully emerge,” Barnes said, in a recent Tea Party newsletter.
Barnes said one of the “roadblocks” to Texas emerging as a state of individuality, personal freedom, and opportunity to reach the American Dream is Speaker Straus. He said the San Antonio Republican is really an “embedded” Democrat.
“This bump in the road is unraveling. The anger over Speaker Straus’ holding up conservative Texas values has resulted in his home county of Bexar Republican Executive Community voting no confidence in his leadership. Other county GOP Executive Committees are arriving at the same conclusion,” Barnes said.
“Eventually Straus will be replaced. If it requires a massive block walking campaign for his opponent in next year’s primary. It will happen. With a super majority, we could even afford it to be an actual Democrat.”
Barnes would have liked to have seen a resolution passed against Straus. Here is what a draft resolution stated:
Whereas the Republican Parties of Bexar and DeWitt Counties recently voted for a change of leadership in the Texas House, due to a lack of support for the Republican Party of Texas Platform;
Whereas the Speaker has disparaged Governor Abbott’s conservative agenda for the Special Session to begin July 18, 2017, calling it “horse manure”;
Whereas in a predominantly conservative state like Texas, anger and discontent have grown within the Republican base due to years of the Speaker’s constant obstruction of conservative legislation, successfully killing most of it;
Thereby be it Resolved, that the Hidalgo County Republican Party supports a change in the Speaker of the Texas House by a vote of the Executive Committee.
Straus was elected to the Texas House in 2005. He was elected Speaker by members of the House on January 13, 2009, thanks in large part to support from Democrats.
Rep. Guerra cannot understand the negativity towards Straus. In his remarks at the RGV Hispanic Chamber luncheon, Guerra said Straus has been great for the Rio Grande Valley.
“We need to give a big applause to Speaker Joe Straus,” Guerra said, at the RGV Hispanic Chamber luncheon. “Speaker Joe Straus held the bar as much as he could. I’d like to hear you all give him a big hand because he helped us quite a bit.” The audience applauded Straus, as per Guerra’s request.
“He does not mind standing up to the Governor and Lieutenant Governor and saying ‘no’ we are not going to do that. (Saying) I’m not worried about bathrooms in Texas, I’m worried about public schools. That’s what’s important and Speaker Straus gets that,” Guerra said.
Guerra said that “luckily” the speaker of the Texas House is chosen by its membership, not the electorate across the state.
“There are 150 of us in the House of Representatives. They (House speakers) are not chosen by the State of Texas, not by Redneck Texas, okay? The speaker of the House is basically elected by the members.”
Guerra said Straus reflects majority sentiment in the House. “The rural Republicans and the Democrats in the House of Representatives see eye to eye on almost everything. We see eye to eye on public schools, properly funding public schools, infrastructure, highways, things that are important to Texans. Unfortunately, in the Senate we have a different situation.”
Barnes, meanwhile, hopes other GOP groups in South Texas take “no confidence” votes on Straus, in particular Cameron County Republican Party. Barnes recently attended a Brownsville GOP Club event and was delighted to see a straw poll taken. “It was moved and seconded and passed unanimously that Speaker Straus should be replaced. The fact that it was not on the agenda doesn’t negate the voice of the people in the meeting,” Barnes said.
Barnes said a statewide GOP effort is now underway to change the way the speaker of the Texas House is chosen.
“A House Republican Caucus has been called for August 17 at 9 a.m. at a location to be determined somewhere in Austin,” Barnes said. “The main topic is developing a more acceptable method of the selection of the Speaker where Democrats will not get to interfere in the vote. Perhaps we will see the end of stonewalling of conservative bills.”
Barnes urged Republican Party members that have a Republican representative in the Texas House to contact them. “Please contact him or her and ask them to publicly commit to attending this important caucus meeting,” Barnes said. “In our area, Representative J. M. Lozano has not responded that he will attend yet; 512-463-0463 is his number.”
Lozano, a Republican from Kingsville, represents District 43, which covers Bee, Jim Wells, Kleberg, and San Patricio counties.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on the House floor. Photo courtesy of Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News.