Neither the lobby or many capitol insiders truly believed Joe Straus was at risk of losing the job as Speaker of the Texas House. With 70, out of 100, votes in the Republican caucus meeting yesterday, Straus' re-election went from inevitable to destined.
As Ken Paxton's supporter walked the halls of the Pink Dome with shirts and flyers lobbying for the candidate with “christian values”, Paxton's less than 30 votes, wasn't enough to fight for Speaker.
Empower Texans had alluded that votes on the Speaker's “race” could be used a score card for the 2012 election cycle. With no opponent, no real procedural vote and no opposition, Empower Texans has shown it is a political group with no real end game. Tea Party activist saw first hand, the lobby and insiders of the Republican Party, rule the day… not activist or activism.
While the Tea Party ushered in the largest Republican majority in Texas history, they lost today. Empower Texans attempted to be a voice for them, but couldn't break through the “conventional wisdom” of Austin insiders.
Today Joe Straus was elected by a voice vote with no opposition. As conventional wisdom won out on the first day of the 82nd session, the real question is what level of activism will the Tea Party and right wing of the Republican Party maintain over the next 139 days of session. Will Empower Texans or the Tea Party engage on issues important to them or cede their questionable influence until the next campaign cycle.
One thing is clear, while the Republican Party controls all the levers of influence, Ken Paxton and Joe Straus represent two very different wings of the Republican Party. While Joe Straus can say he won the battle on the first day, which group will claim victory on Sine Die?
Update: Apparently I spoke a little too soon. Straus was elected 132 to 15. That's right, 15 voted the field. Who are those 15?
According to Abby Rapport at the Texas Observer:
Here's the 15 who voted no:
Simpson, White, Zedler, C. Perry, Paxton, Parker, P. King, Larson, Laubenberg, Landtroop, Flynn, Berman, Christian, Cain, Burkett
(Hughes and Isaac did not vote.)
The list is almost entirely Tea Party freshmen, with a few social conservative hardliners thrown in. Looks like there won't be much playing nice this session.