Tag Archives: Joe Straus

Stand tall, Speaker Straus

Joe Straus offers living, breathing, demonstrable proof that not all Texas Republican politicians have gone around the bend, that they all aren’t bat-crap crazy.

Straus, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives — until the end of this year, when his term ends — has emerged as a leading GOP opponent of Donald J. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.

The speaker, who is not seeking re-election, wrote the president a letter urging him to end the program that allows for children to be snatched from their parents’ arms at the southern border and sent to, um, somewhere apart from Mom and Dad.

As the Texas Tribune reported: “I know that members of Congress from both parties have proposed various ways to address this issue in the form of legislation, and while I applaud their attention to the problem, I also know that congressional action often does not come quickly,” the speaker told Trump in a letter. “In order to at least begin addressing this issue, there is no need to wait for Congress to act. That’s why I respectfully ask that you move immediately to rescind the policy that [Attorney] General [Jeff] Sessions announced in April and any other policies that have led to an increase in family separations at the border.”

There’s more: In the letter, Straus also rejected arguments by the Trump administration that the policy could be used as leverage against Democrats in Congress. “It is wrong to use these scared, vulnerable children as a negotiating tool,” Straus wrote.

Straus hails from San Antonio. While the state’s second-largest city isn’t on the border with Mexico, it is close enough to be considered near Ground Zero of this still-boiling crisis. The city has a huge Latino population, comprising many recent immigrants. Speaker Straus is listening to them as well as the better angels of his own conscience in seeking relief from this hideous policy.

I want to add, too, that Straus is no stranger to political sanity in a state that at times veers into fits of partisan hysteria.

Gov. Greg Abbott called the 2017 Legislature into special sessions to consider, among other items, that goofy “Bathroom Bill,” which required people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender assigned to their birth certificate. The bill was clearly discriminatory against transgender individuals.

It passed the Senate — which is led by GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — on a partisan vote. Speaker Straus, as the Man of the House, would have none of it.

Through the speaker’s leadership, the Bathroom Bill ended up dead and buried. Which is where it should remain now and forever.

Straus is turning his speaker’s gavel over to someone else in 2019. I do hope, however, that he remains a clear voice of reason among Republicans whose hearts, minds and souls have been captured by the lying carnival barker/flim-flam artist who in 2016 got elected president of the United States.

Texas needs Joe Straus to continue speaking out, as does the nation.

Will this young man enter the speaker’s race?

The Texas Tribune has listed five state legislators who either have announced plans to run for Texas House speaker or are interested in joining the fray.

I looked the list over and was expecting to see a name from Amarillo. He wasn’t among the five of them.

So, with that I’ll offer this on-the-record request for state Rep. Four Price, the Republican representative from House District 87: Go for it, young man! Join the field of legislators who want to be the next Man of the House!

Price will see this blog post. He already knows that I have great personal regard for him. I am acknowledging my bias, OK?

Rep. Price brings some political muscle to this contest, were he to run for speaker.

First of all, Texas Monthly rated him among the state’s “Ten Best Legislators” in 2017. TM’s editors like his commitment to mental health issues.

Second of all, Price beat back a challenge from a guy who had some serious financial backing from Empower Texans, the far-right-wing political action group that had targeted a number of incumbent legislators. Price rolled up 79 percent of the vote in the March 6 Republican Party primary race. The way I see it, a victory margin of that size has purchased Price a good bit of political capital that he can spend while campaigning for speaker.

Third of all, Price would give the Texas Panhandle an important — and loud — voice in the Legislature at a time when it is experiencing a diminishing level of clout in Austin. It’s part of the state’s shifting population trend, with Central and North Texas growing at a much more rapid rate than the vast reaches of West Texas.

Price told me some months ago that he was part of current Speaker Joe Straus’s legislative team in the House. He endorsed the leadership that Speaker Straus brought to the lower legislative chamber. It follows, then, that a Speaker Price would follow the lead established by Straus, who’s not running for re-election.

I say all this knowing that this decision rests exclusively with Four Price and his family. Were he to run for speaker and then be selected by his House colleagues, he would be elevated immediately from a part-time citizen-legislator to a full-time political leader — even though the job won’t pay him accordingly.

It’s a sacrifice to run for speaker and to subject oneself to the abuse that goes with the territory.

Still, I hope Four Price goes for it.

Speaker candidates are lining up

Tan Parker has become the third Texas House of Representatives member to file for the race to become the next speaker of the state House.

He hails from Flower Mound; the other two are Phil King of Weatheford and John Zerwas of Richmond. They’re all Republicans.

OK. That’s all fine.

I’m wondering if we’re going to hear an announcement from another up-and-comer in the Texas House. He hails from Amarillo. He’s also a Republican, who also delivered a serious pounding to a candidate favored by Empower Texans, a far right wing political organization that sought to topple this fellow in the GOP primary this week.

Rep. Four Price? Are you listening?

Here’s what I have to say to this young man, who happens to be a friend of mine and who also has done a stellar job representing House District 87 since 2011.

Becoming speaker of the House essentially turns the office into a full-time endeavor. Price will have to come to grips with the idea that he no longer would be a part-time “citizen legislator.” He also has been a strong ally of the current speaker, Joe Straus of San Antonio, who isn’t running for re-election to the House.

Straus distinguished himself mightily by ensuring the death of the infamous Bathroom Bill that passed the Texas Senate in 2017. The Bathroom Bill would have required transgender individuals to use public restrooms in accordance to the gender assigned on their birth certificate.

It is discriminatory on its face. It had no business becoming Texas law. Straus saw it for what it was.

So, would a Speaker Four Price follow that lead? I would hope so.

I also believe that Rep. Price would make an excellent speaker candidate, giving the Texas Panhandle a strong voice in legislative matters, as it did when Democrat Pete Laney of Hale Center ran the House of Representatives.

Hey, I’m just a single voice here in the wilderness.

Still, my desire is to see my friend go for it.

Sen. Seliger? No one is perfect

I have spent a good deal of emotional capital via this blog speaking on behalf of state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who’s fighting for re-election to the Texas Senate.

My view is a simple one: Seliger is head and shoulders above the two men challenging him in the GOP primary: Victor Leal of Amarillo and Mike Canon of Midland.

He has done a good job representing West Texas. He has acquainted himself with the unique issues in the Permian Basin as well as the Panhandle, from where Seliger hails.

I’ve laid down that marker yet again, but I do have a caveat.

Sen. Seliger isn’t perfect. He does have a vote in the recent legislative session that I want to revisit briefly. Seliger voted in favor of the goofy Bathroom Bill that became one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s major legislative priorities. Senate Bill 3 then went down the hall to the Texas House of Representatives, where GOP Speaker Joe Straus made damn sure it wouldn’t see the light of day.

You remember the Bathroom Bill, yes? It would have required people to use the public restroom that coincided with the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. It meant that transgender individuals couldn’t use restrooms in accordance with their current gender. It was discriminatory on its face.

Straus saw that and also noted that business groups — not to mention law enforcement officials — all opposed SB 3.

Seliger’s vote in favor of the bill was not decisive. He joined all other Senate Republicans in backing the bill. I only wish he would have stood up to Patrick on this one, just as he has done on other legislative matters during the two Senate sessions the men have served together.

It well might be that Seliger knew SB 3 was doomed in the House, which enabled him to favor it in the Senate.

OK. So there’s this vote that’s troubling. However, it is far from a dealbreaker, given the (non)quality of the opposition that is challenging Sen. Seliger in the GOP primary.

I have declared already that I consider Seliger to be a friend. I have long respected his commitment to the Panhandle and to West Texas.

But he is as imperfect as the rest of us.

***

Just for kicks, I thought I’d share this post from 2014:

Is Kel Seliger in the wrong party?

Declaring intentions ahead of primary

I am not usually one to declare how I intend to vote before I actually do it, given that we do cast our votes in secret.

This year presents some serious concern for me. It’s enough to make me declare my intention to do something I usually keep semi-secret.

My intention is to vote in the Republican Party primary. Not only that, I am going to vote early; as much as I detest early voting, my wife and I will be unable to vote on primary election day, as we’ll be out of town celebrating our granddaughter’s birthday. Hey, we have our priorities, you know?

I have a particular concern, and it involves Texas Senate District 31. I want Kel Seliger to win the GOP primary. He faces two challengers, Victor Leal of Amarillo and Mike Canon of Midland. Both of those individuals are trying to outflank Seliger on the right wing of the GOP electorate. They contend he’s one of those damn liberals. What they don’t say, of course, is that they are being backed by interests from far outside the Texas Panhandle.

Seliger is a mainstream conservative. His only “sin,” in the eyes of Leal and Canon, is that he is not a crazy right-wing extremist.

I’ll stipulate once again that I believe Seliger, a former Amarillo mayor, has done a fine job representing West Texas in the Legislature. He needs to stay on the job.

I wish I could throw my support behind state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, too. I cannot. I am registered to vote in Randall County; Price represents Potter County and other rural counties in his House district.

I have known Price and Seliger for as long as we have lived in Amarillo. I like and admire them both and I want them both to win their party’s primary.

Given as well that Price has garnered the attention of Texas Monthly, which considers him one of the state’s best legislators, I believe the Panhandle is well-served to keep Price on the job right along with Seliger.

Not only that, there’s considerable chatter around the state that Price might ascend to the speakership of the Texas House of Representatives. Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio is not running for re-election and Price — shall I say — is not discouraging talk of him succeeding Straus. I consider that a form of code that Price is quite interested in becoming speaker.

Think of the potential that could await the Panhandle if one of our own takes the House gavel and directs the flow of legislation in that chamber.

I won’t surrender my own progressive political leanings by voting in this year’s GOP primary. We do have a general election coming up this fall and my intention is to back candidates up and down the state ballot who adhere to my own world view.

When you live as we do in Ground Zero of Texas Republican Land, you have to cast your vote where it will do the most good for the region where you live.

That’s my intention. So there.

Die, Bathroom Bill, just die

I am going to make a not-very-aggressive prediction.

It is that Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is going to bow out of politics at the end of 2018. He likely will ignore my plea that he reconsider his decision to not seek re-election from his San Antonio House district next year.

Speaker Straus, would you reconsider quitting the House?

There. That all said, my hope now is that the next speaker of the House of Representatives will follow Straus’s lead and do whatever he or she can to derail that crazy Bathroom Bill that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and most of the Texas Senate wanted to enact into law this year.

The Bathroom Bill was the brainchild — if you want to call it that — of archconservative legislators who had this goofy notion that it would be OK to discriminate against transgender people. They sought to craft a bill that required individuals to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender designated on their birth certificate.

That means a man who becomes a woman must use the men’s room; same for women who become men.

They came up with this cockamamie idea that transgendered people would seek to assault people sexually in those restrooms.

The good news came from police chiefs and business executives across the state. They all came out in opposition to the Bathroom Bill. The speaker of the House, Straus, heard their concerns and said “No can do” when the Bathroom Bill made its way to the other end of the State Capitol from the Senate.

Straus was having none of it. The bill died in the regular session and then didn’t survive the special legislative session that Gov. Greg Abbott called.

Where do we stand now?

I’ll also presume that Lt. Gov. Patrick will be re-elected in 2018. He’ll then bring his nutty notion back to the Senate when the 2019 Legislature convenes. The House will be led by someone other than Speaker Straus. It well might be state Rep. Four Price, the Amarillo Republican who told me he was a big supporter of Straus and his agenda. Dare I presume, thus, that he, too, might block a future Bathroom Bill from becoming law? One can hope.

If it is someone else, then one can hope that whoever ascends to the speaker’s chair would do the same thing.

At least that’s my hope for the next legislative session: Kill the Bathroom Bill dead, man.

Speaker Straus, would you reconsider quitting the House?

Joe Straus has declared that “decency trumped tribalism” in Alabama.

Yes, it did. The election of U.S. Sen.-elect Doug Jones over his fiery and deeply flawed foe, Roy Moore, suggests a potential turning of the tide in deeply red, Republican-leaning states.

Straus, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, issued a stern warning to his fellow Texans in a talk to the Greater Austin Crime Commission. “If more mainstream voters participate in primaries, there will be fewer Roy Moores in position to hold important offices,” Straus said.

Straus is on point

“Mainstream voters” are opting out of the primary process these days, Straus fears. I share his fear. I also want Straus to rethink his decision to retire from public life after the 2018 midterm election.

He is stepping down as speaker of the House. Indeed, he represents the very type of “mainstream politician” that states such as Texas need as government faces a frontal assault by political zealots. In Texas, that assault is coming from within the Republican Party.

Straus is a mainstream Republican who led the fight to kill the ridiculous Bathroom Bill that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate wanted to enact. That bill would have required transgender folks to use public restrooms according to the gender assigned on their birth certificate. Straus made damn sure the House wouldn’t follow suit and, in his mind, discriminate against Texans.

Mainstream politics, anyone? There you have it. Speaker Straus embodied it quite nicely during the special legislative session that Gov. Greg Abbott called earlier this year.

When someone such as Straus declares that “decency” must win the day, he speaks from intense personal experience.

I know he won’t reconsider his decision to step aside at the end of next year. He likely would face a Republican primary challenge in San Antonio.

But still … I want to make the plea just one time for the record. Stay in the fight, Mr. Speaker. The state needs you.

Speaker Price? Sure, why not? But only if …

Four Price is a friend of mine who I’ve known for about two decades.

Having gotten that disclosure out of the way, you may take my endorsement of the Amarillo Republican lawmaker’s potential candidacy for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives for what it’s worth.

I believe he would make a smashing speaker.

But here’s the important caveat I want to attach to it: I want him to follow the lead set by his good buddy, the current speaker who’s leaving the Legislature after the 2018 election.

Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, is quitting politics. He calls the atmosphere too “divisive” and too “partisan.” He sought to run the House of Representatives with a bipartisan touch. He worked with Democrats as well as Republicans.

That sense of political comity cost Straus support among the hard-core Republicans who believe he had become a Republican In Name Only, a dreaded RINO.

I don’t sense that Price, also a Republican, believes that of his friend and colleague. I believe it would be pure folly for Price to buckle under the pressure that some of the right-wingnuts are going to exert.

One of them happens to run the Texas Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick locked horns with Speaker Straus over that damn Bathroom Bill that died a well-deserved death in this summer’s special legislative session. The bill would have required transgender people to use public restrooms in accordance to their birth certificate gender. Patrick wanted the bill passed into law; Straus resisted, earning him the scorn of county GOP organizations, including the Randall County Republican Party, which resolved to support someone else for speaker in the 2019 session.

So, to my friend Four Price, I ask only this: If you’re going to run for speaker, please resist the temptation to tilt too far to the right. Do not forsake the millions of Texans — such as yours truly — who believe that moderation is critical to effective governing.

All hell is about to break loose in Austin

You want to hear the rumble of thunder under your feet?

Put your ear to the ground and get a load of the racket emanating from a Texas legislator’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election in 2018.

That would be House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, who stood firm, tall and steady against the onslaught of the far right within his party. Straus is calling it quits.

The Texas Tribune is reporting that a political earthquake is under way in Austin. A Rice University political scientist says the “political center in Texas” has just collapsed.

That might be the truth.

Straus fought against the TEA Party and other fringe elements within the Republican Party. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sought to shove the Bathroom Bill down our throats. Straus was having none of it; a bill that would require people to use public restrooms according to the gender noted on their birth certificate. The Bathroom Bill discriminates against transgendered individuals and Straus wouldn’t stand for it.

His stubborn refusal to let the bill get a vote in the House has drawn the outrage from those on the right. So the speaker is out of there.

And the successors are starting the line up. One of them might be a friend of mine, Rep. Four Price, an Amarillo Republican first elected to the House in 2010. I asked Price about the speaker’s future a few weeks ago, but he said he was standing behind his guy, Straus.

Now that the speaker is on his way out, there exists an opportunity for one of Straus’s key lieutenants — that would be Price — to step in and maintain the moderate tone that the House ought to keep.

As the Texas Tribune reports: More than any other Texas Republican with real power, Straus was seen as a voice of moderation. On issue after issue, he and his team alone stood in the way of the kind of runaway populism that Donald Trump championed and major statewide Republicans endorsed.

Here’s the Tribune article

Will another moderate step up? Might it be Four Price? And would a Speaker Price resist the pressure that’s sure to come hard from the far right?

Meanwhile, the ground continues to rumble.

Randall County GOP puts Speaker Straus on notice

So, just how Republican-red is Randall County, Texas?

It believes that the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Joe Straus of San Antonio, isn’t conservative enough. It believes he has stalled legislation near and dear to the far right wing of the GOP. Why, he is just too bipartisan, too willing to work with those dreaded Democrats in the Texas House.

So, the Randall County Republican Party has joined some other county GOP operations in pulling its support of Straus should the Republican seek another term as speaker of the House.

Good bleeping grief!

Straus appears to have drawn the ire of the Randall County GOP because he heeds public opinion on certain controversial measures. Off the top of my noggin, the Bathroom Bill comes immediately to mind.

Texas senators approved the Bathroom Bill, which was pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and sent it to the House. Straus opposed the bill that requires transgender people to use public bathrooms in accordance to the sexual identity stated on their birth certificate. Straus saw the bill for what it was: an unenforceable act of discrimination against some Texans. He joined chiefs of police, business executives and medical professionals who also opposed the Bathroom Bill.

But because he didn’t push this monstrosity of a bill through the House — among other legislation — he no longer deserves to be speaker. The Randall County GOP’s resolution seeks to get state Reps. John Smithee and Four Price, both Amarillo Republicans, to vote against Straus if he seeks another speaker term.

It’s interesting to me that Price, whose district includes Potter County, declined to comment to the media about the Randall County resolution. Why do you suppose he did that? Oh, maybe it’s because he might applaud the job Straus has done while serving as the Man of the House.

I don’t want the Randall County Republican Party to have its way. The Texas House has managed to stall some overheated legislative remedies, the Bathroom Bill being one of them.

As for the bipartisanship that Straus has shown, I welcome that, too. It is in keeping with a longstanding Texas legislative tradition with governors, lieutenant governors and Texas House speakers routinely reaching across the aisle to get things done for the good of the entire state.