The Texas State Republican Executive Committee voted Saturday to censure House Speaker Joe Straus, saying he has obstructed the party’s conservative agenda.
The 44-19 vote to censure the speaker, who is not seeking re-election, surpassed the threshold requirement that two-thirds of the 64 committee members — two from each of the 31 Senate districts, plus the chair and vice chair — approve the resolution for it to be enacted.
State Party Chair James Dickey and Vice Chair Amy Clark cast the decisive votes. Without them, the 42 votes for censure would have fallen one vote shy.
“This is a very unusual case … and this could have consequences for the party,” said Dickey, before making the dramatic announcement that he and Clark would vote for the censure, ensuring the Texas GOP’s repudiation of one of its most powerful elected officials.
“We have just done something that will go down in the history books of the Republican Party of Texas,” said Senate District 11 member JT Edwards.
After the vote, Straus spokesman Jason Embry issued a statement saying, “Speaker Straus expected these antics from some people when he opposed their bathroom bill and helped prevent the harm it would have brought to our state.”
“He is proud to have represented the views of mainstream Texas Republicans who have voiced overwhelming support for the speaker’s principled leadership on many issues,” Embry added. “Speaker Straus will continue working to support traditional Republican principles and re-elect Republicans who put their constituents first.”
The censure resolution was brought to the committee, per party rules, by the executive committee of the party in Straus’ home county of Bexar. On Dec. 11, the Bexar County Republican Executive Committee voted by be two-thirds to censure Straus — one of more than 50 local party organizations to do so last year — and ask that the state executive committee concur.
The case against Straus is a familiar one.
Senate District 25 member Mark Dorazio said Straus had subverted the party’s platform, Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda and the will of the party’s grass roots, preventing Texas — even with total GOP control — from becoming the “shining light on the hill” it ought to be.
But opponents of the resolution said the censure was unnecessary since Straus is already on his way out.
“How many times do we have to kick a dead dog before we’re sure it’s dead?” said Linda Kinney, also from Senate District 25.
Noting he was “probably the only Jewish person in the room,” Michael Goldman of Senate District 21 opposed the resolution, citing past references by Straus’ critics to the speaker being Jewish.
Other members said that concern was unfounded.
Debbie Terry of Senate District 12 said she backed the censure resolution, even though Straus had sent her two of her all-time favorite Christmas cards.
Terry Holcomb of Senate District 3 said, “This is not a Christian resolution. This is a grass-roots Republican resolution.”
“The religious issue is a nonissue,” Holcomb, the pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Oakhurst, said after the meeting. “Everyone in here loves the Jewish people.”
In denouncing Straus, an old-school Bush Republican, the state committee underscored a fissure in the Texas GOP separating the activist base from some of its most significant figures.
At its September meeting, the committee passed a resolution, 57 to 1, criticizing Land Commissioner George P. Bush — the scion of the Bush dynasty — for what the resolution described as leadership on restoring the Alamo that lacked both transparency and a singular focus on the 1836 battle that makes the historic site in downtown San Antonio the most sacred shrine in Texas.
Bush defended his stewardship, but now faces a GOP primary challenge from his predecessor, Jerry Patterson, and two other candidates who have made the Alamo an issue.