Ahead of the Jan. 8 kick-off to the 83rd Texas Legislature, Republican House of Representative members are being met with a challenge from grassroots activists statewide: “Conservative House Speaker Or Your Seat.” To reinforce the message that electing a significant margin of conservative House representatives signals voter expectations of conservative House leadership, WomenOnTheWall.org has released a Texas Speaker Showdown II – WE’RE BACK! video follow-up to the group’s 2010 Speaker Showdown theme.
The video notes 2012 Texas Tea Party electoral wins as well as current House Speaker Joe Straus’ loss of key political lieutenants following what many view as his obstruction of conservative legislation in the 2011 session. In addition to congratulating a great number of the newly-elected House members, it reminds that primary season 2014 offers the incoming 95 Republican representatives new “Fall of the RINOs” opportunity pending voter satisfaction with actions taken in the upcoming months.
State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) is challenging Straus for the House leadership position. “I respect Speaker Straus as a fellow legislator; however, we differ on the way that the House should be led. And I am not alone in that opinion,” Simpson said in a recent statement. “The culture of ‘go along to get along’ politics, where members face intimidation and retribution should they disagree with a leadership decision, stifles representative government.“
A challenge of Straus’ leadership comes as no surprise. His retention of the position and performance during the 2011 legislative session was viewed less than favorably in many conservative circles. A RedState.com blog post exposing demeaning, disrespectful e-mail comments attributed to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ senior staff and allies aimed at conservative legislators and activists recently ignited new concerns from both grassroots political organizations and other public policy groups.
The Texas Tribune meanwhile reported earlier this week that after a luncheon held by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and Opportunity Austin, Straus told reporters he enjoys the “vast majority of support from members of both parties.” The article noted, however, that neither he nor challenger Simpson has publicly released names or a headcount of pledged support.
Straus said his priorities for the upcoming session will be education, transportation, water, jobs and budget transparency. WomenOnTheWall.org seeks transparency to begin on the session’s first day when representatives officially set speaker nominees to then vote on who the speaker will be.
In a statement, WomenOnTheWall.org is calling on a floor vote – not a caucus vote – for speaker so this first vote cast can alert conservative voters as to representatives potentially subject to 2014 primary election replacement.
The group says that to “Keep Texas Strong,” issues supported by Republicans and Democrats must be debated as well as understood by the public. Simpson’s position is that floor votes for either party’s legislation should not be obstructed. If the speaker has exclusive power to control an overall legislative agenda, public policy passage becomes about who buys legislation – not a full, open review of policy options.
WomenOnTheWall.org believes state representatives deserve the opportunity to fully represent those who elected them as primary elections subsequently allow voters to hold accountable officials failing to serve constituents’ best interests – no matter which side of the political aisle they are on.
A Simpson victory will require Republican and Democratic support. The group says it will be a win for all Texas voters by offering greater accountability and for all House members by providing the power to represent their constituents as per the Texas Constitution.
The regular session of the 83rd Texas Legislature will run 140 days, Jan. 8 through May 27.