Republican leaders in Joe Straus’ home county voted to censure the retiring Texas House speaker, saying he “abused the power of his office and usurped the power of the people’s duly elected representatives.”
On a 77-21 vote Monday night, the Bexar County Executive Committee called out the San Antonio Republican under state party Rule 44. The rule applies to a party office holder who takes three or more actions during the biennium in opposition to the core principles of the Republican Party and its platform.
The Bexar censure resolution accused Straus of:
- Disregarding Texas House rules and unilaterally adjourning the House early on Aug. 15.
- Repeatedly refusing to recognize proper motions and amendments.
- Opposing a core party principle by obstructing legislation designed to protect the right to life.
- Obstructing legislation designed to promote school choice.
- Improperly blocking the so-called “Bathroom Bill,” designed to protect the privacy, safety, and dignity of Texas women and children.
Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey said the Bexar resolution “will almost certainly be voted on by the state party if it has the necessary Rule 44 wording and makes it through the procedures like the [Rep.] Byron Cook resolution did two weeks ago.”
Cook, a key Straus lieutenant who also is retiring, was the target of a first-ever attempt by the State Republican Executive Committee to censure a sitting House member. The SREC failed to reach the needed two-thirds vote.
Dickey said a Straus vote could come at the SREC meeting next month.
JoAnn Fleming, a tea party leader in North Texas, said Republican activists will be watching.
“There is more than abundant evidence that conservative reforms found in the Texas Republican Party Platform are repeatedly stonewalled and blocked in the Texas House by the likes of Joe Straus and Byron Cook,” Fleming told The Texas Monitor.
“We are watching to see which SREC members really don’t care about holding GOP officials accountable and will consider them in support of Republicans governing as Democrats. I suspect such SREC members may well have challengers.”
Jeff Judson, former City Councilman of Olmos Park and a leader in the move against Straus, said a state censure typically blocks financial support from the office holder. That’s a moot point in this case because Straus is not running for re-election.
But with several House races shaping up as proxy wars pitting pro- and anti-Straus forces, the censure sends a message to candidates that the party does not stand behind the speaker.
“It affects his ability to influence policy going forward,” Judson said.
Separately, 61 other county party organizations have passed no-confidence resolutions against Straus this year.
The Bexar vote didn’t come without dissent.
James Duncan, a precinct chairman, declared: “It makes no sense to kill a man who’s already said he’s leaving.”
Former Bexar County Republican Chairman Robert Stovall blocked earlier efforts to censure Straus. But Stovall resigned last week to join a crowded field of contenders seeking the congressional seat held by retiring Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio.
Local activist George Rodriguez expressed the sentiment of the majority at Monday night’s meeting, saying that censuring Straus “sends a big message to the rest of the GOP establishment. What’s the point of having a GOP state platform if elected officials don’t support it or, even worse, disparage it?”
Mark Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, said, “I would not expect the SREC to push this much further.”
“Once the March primaries and May runoffs have passed, the issue should fade away,” he predicted.
But Jones suggested that “the broader movement to censure Speaker Straus will not move to the back burner until after the March primaries, since between now and then his speakership will remain salient for the approximately two dozen Texas House GOP primaries which feature pro- and anti-Straus candidates.”
“Once the primaries have passed I would expect the SREC and Texas GOP Convention to focus more on their common enemies, Democrats, than on their internal rivals,” he said.