House Retirements Rearrange Electoral Math In Speakers Race

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Many have pondered what will come of Speaker Joe Straus once his budget writer and respected colleague Representative Jim Pitts retires next year.

It is no secret that the Republican Party as represented in the Texas House of Representatives is changing, but the real question is how much. Straus has managed to painlessly maneuver challenges to the Speakership the two times he's been re-elected by the House.

The question now is how will Straus build allies with a fractured Republican party (if you need evidence of this besides the Tea Party's existence in the Legislature, just take a look at all the votes on the Transportation bills during the 2nd and 3rd called Special Legislative Sessions), with a growing Tea Party Caucus.

Check Out How Straus Really Fairs In a Speakers Race Below The Jump.The Retirements in the House are as follows:

Dan Branch (Running for AG)

Bill Callegari (Retiring)

Stefani Carter (Running for RRC)

Brandon Creighton (Running for Agr. Com.)

John Davis (Retiring)

Craig Eiland (Retiring)

Harvey Hilderbran (Running for Comptroller)

Tryon Lewis (Retiring)

Rob Orr (Retiring)

Jim Pitts (Retiring)

Mark Strama (Retired)

Van Taylor (Running for Senate)

Out of these twelve retirees seven are Committee Chairs and two are Vice Chairs, so there will be plenty of movement within the leadership party. Whether Straus keeps the leadership is a matter of if he can make new friends, because he's losing the old ones.

The original group of Republicans who elected Speaker Straus back in 2009, known as ABCs (Anyone But Craddick) or as the Tribune's Ross Ramsey refers to them, the Polo Road Gang, are almost all but gone. For posterity here is a list of the original crew of Republicans.

Dan Branch (Running for AG)

Jim Pitts (Retiring)

Burt Solomons (Retired)

Brian McCall (Retired)

Rob Eissler (beat by Steve Toth)

Delwin Jones (beat by Charles Perry)

Tommy Merritt (beat by David Simpson)

Edmond Kuempel (RIP)

Byron Cook

Charlie Geren

Jim Keffer

Joe Straus

As you can see some of Straus's closest allies have either decided to move on, or have been beaten by Tea Party Republican candidates in their primaries. The only three left from this list are the last listed: Cook, Geren, and Keffer.

With all these open seats and and five Republicans (Harper-Brown, Sheets, Button, Crownover, Tony Dale) with Democratic opponents, the Speaker's race could be close. Considering that the Tea Party has at times this past session created coups before, much like the blunder of the vote to defund the lottery commission (oops), anything dealing with the crazy caucus is a gamble (pun intended).

It is also no secret that Charlie Geren made a few foes this session within his own party, but he will be hard to beat as he is one of the most respected members in the Legislature, party lines notwithstanding.

Straus still has strong allies in the House like Representatives Patricia Harless, John Zerwas, Jason Isaac, and John Smithee. And even if Democrats gain more seats but don't take back the House, that only favors the current speaker. Democrats are not going to shake the status quo. So far Straus has played relatively fair with them. He hasn't made a ton of people very happy, but he's hasn't upset anyone too much at all to make waves from the Democrats, yet.  


About Author

Chaille Jolink

Chaille Jolink was born and raised in Austin, Texas and has more than a decade of experience working in Texas politics. Her interest began when she was a Senate Messenger in 2003, and she's since worked for several different legislators and candidates. She started reporting in 2007 for, and has been a contributor to several different publications. Chaille is a graduate of the University of Texas and enjoys fashion, baseball, and playing any team sport. Chaille tweets @ChailleMcCann.

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