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Straus' Ascendance Signals Shift in Texas GOP

by: Todd Hill

Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 07:00 AM CST

The likely ascendance of San Antonio moderate and two-term Republican, Joe Straus, to the Speakership signals a clear shift in leadership, tone, and overall direction not only in the House, but also the Texas Republican Party.  It also signals an opportunity for Democrats to move forward with a moderate progressive agenda that is good for Texas and actually receive a fair hearing in the House.    

The Tarrant County Democratic delegation signaled clear support for Straus.  Talking with Representative-elect Chris Turner, he came away very impressed with a weekend meeting with Straus:

There are a number of reasons why he will be a good speaker, but the most important to me is his commitment to run the House in a fair and bipartisan manner.  If we have a fair process, I am hopeful we can get some meaningful things accomplished for the people of Texas.

Representative Paula Pierson echoed some of the same sentiments on Straus:

He [Straus] is bright but he is fair.  He is not a bully.  I believe he wants what is best for Texas and not himself.

Representative Marc Veasey added the following in a phone call last night:

Straus is a pragmatic, down to earth, good guy who gets along with Democrats and Republicans.  I'm confident the Democratic agenda will be heard, that all sides will be heard, and although we might not always agree that we will find more common ground then we have since I've been in Austin.

The Star-Telegram quoted Representative Burnam as having highly favorable opinions of the new incoming Speaker of the 81st Legislative session as well.  For the first time in six years a heavy hand on the gavel will give way to a pragmatic one.

One thing is for certain, a fight for the soul of the Republican Party has boiled into the public domain with the more extreme wing versus the more moderate wing jockeying for leadership of the Texas GOP.  It remains to be seen whether Straus has the backbone to withstand a withering fire from the more extreme wing or be forced to do more dealing with moderate Republicans and Democrats in order to pass legislation that is good for Texas.  If the latter is the case, the more extreme wing will be boxed into an irrelevant corner.  That signals a new day in politics in Texas.    

Considering that Representative Straus appears to have majority support amongst the House, he deserves an opportunity to restore bi-partisanship and pragmatism to Texas politics in order to set a more constructive tone to the upcoming legislative session.      


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