Now that Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has announced he is vacating his seat and his speakership, Texas conservatives are rightfully celebrating. For too long, the grassroots conservative agenda has been stifled by the outgoing speaker and his lieutenants in the Texas House. Important issues, including pro-life measures, paycheck protection, school choice, and property tax reform, have been stifled by Straus’s handpicked committee chairmen. With news of his departure, there is new hope among grassroots conservatives. But our next steps are critical to our ultimate success.
First, conservative candidates need to work even harder to earn the Republican nomination in their respective House districts. They cannot simply rely on the potential domino effect of Straus and his top ally, House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, retiring. Instead, conservative candidates must work harder and smarter to ensure that they are successful in the March 2018 primary. We know that the Straus wing of the Texas House will be working even harder this election cycle, since they see their power and influence declining. Conservative candidates must be at their very best over the next four months.
Second, conservative grassroots organizations, including tea party groups, Republican women, liberty groups, and county party clubs, must flex their muscles and demand the best Speaker candidate possible. No one should automatically get the support of the conservative grassroots. There are a number of potentially great Speaker candidates, but each one should face tough questions from the grassroots about how they would govern, if elected.
Candidates for Speaker should face tough questions at public forums regarding their voting records and policy positions, but also about processes and personnel. How will they select committee chairmen? What issues will they prioritize as Speaker? What differences and similarities would we see between them and Speaker Straus? Grassroots conservatives must encourage an open competition among potential candidates, and must get specific answers to these and other important questions.
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This is the moment for the groups and individuals that have long challenged Speaker Straus to celebrate their achievement, but then to immediately get to work on finding the best possible replacement. We cannot get this wrong. If we are going to be able to move the conservative agenda forward, we must encourage our representatives to select a conservative with the leadership skills and knowledge to help the Texas House live up to its potential.
Gov.Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and the Texas Senate have proven that they want to deliver a conservative agenda for Texans. Now it is time for the Texas House to deliver. Grassroots conservatives must work together to play our part in choosing the next House Speaker.
Steinhauser is a partner with Steinhauser Strategies in Austin and was an early tea party organizer.