Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has always been popular in his home of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio and a few surrounding suburbs. He has won recent primary challenges by more than 60% and his general elections by more than 80%. Yet, thanks to a recent feud with fellow Republicans Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick that may all be coming to an end.
Last night, with just over a week until a special session is set to begin for the Texas legislature, the Republican Party of Bexar County voted for a resolution encouraging new leadership in the Texas House. According to the resolution, which passed 36-28, it was due to the lack of support for the Republican Party of Texas platform.
Some opposed the resolution due to the fear that perception that infighting was bad for the party. Others believed the public infighting of Texas GOP leaders was more harmful. In a Facebook live stream video of the vote Bexar County Precinct Chair Patty Gibbons says, “This isn’t infighting. This democracy. Democracy is messy.”
In an interview earlier in the year Dan Patrick said he and Straus have different priorities. “My audience is the people of Texas,” he said. “The same thing with Greg Abbott. The speaker has a different audience. He gets elected by a very small group of people in his district and then he gets elected in the House by the Democrats and some Republicans.
Much of the dispute between Straus, Abbott, and Patrick surrounds the Texas Privacy Act also referred to as the “Bathroom Bill.” The bill would require those in Texas public schools and other government buildings to use the restroom of their birth gender.
The rhetoric on both sides of the issue is high with one side focusing on concerns of possible voyeurism or attack from “men in women’s restrooms” and the other side proclaiming the bill may cause suicides in the transgender community.
According to a recent article in The New Yorker, Joe Straus said, “I’m not a lawyer, but I am a Texan. I’m disgusted by all this. Tell the lieutenant governor I don’t want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands.”
Straus went even further in a speech to the Texas Association of School Boards where he compared the entire special session to “horse manure.”
The process to replace Joe Straus is not an easy one. Should the Texas House desire a new Speaker, assuming Straus had not voluntarily stepped down, then when the special session comes to order a representative would seek recognition for the privileged motion to remove the Speaker and elect a new Speaker. The presiding chair would likely decline to recognize. The House members may appeal the chair’s denial with a written request signed by at least 76 representatives. Twenty Four Hours later the appeal is eligible for consideration. The appeal vote is then taken, and if successful, a vote to remove the Speaker will occur. If the motion passes the Speaker Pro Tem takes the chair and takes nominations for a new Speaker.
Representative Joe Straus was first elected House Speaker in 2009 with only 11 fellow Republicans and all 65 Democrats supporting him to replace Tom Craddick. In January, he was reelected to his fifth term unanimously making him tied with the longest serving speaker in Texas history.
Along with the resolution in support of replacing Joe Straus as Speaker the Bexar GOP also voted to support the “Bathroom Bill.”