Following this year’s contentious regular and special sessions at the Capitol, the divide between the Legislature’s upper and lower chambers couldn’t be more apparent. Many of the priorities of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, like the hotly-debated transgender bathroom bill and sanctuary cities law, didn’t fly in the House.
House Speaker Joe Straus led the charge against his Senate colleagues’ agenda, bagging victory by stopping bathroom legislation, as well as other contested bills regarding local control and property tax adjustments. But will speaker Straus return for a record-breaking sixth term as Speaker?
“The bottom line is, as you just said, six terms. That’s a lot for a high stress, burnout job,” Jeffers says. “After five terms, you get to the point where maybe you’ve had enough.”
So why would Straus file for re-election if he doesn’t plan on seeking a sixth term? Jeffers has an easy answer for that.
“He filed the Friday before sine die,” Jeffers says. “That’s what he does routinely. He knew there was a special session coming. Had he not filed, it would have showcased that he was a lame duck.”
Jeffers says he’s heard from some members of the House, and they expect Straus may not come back.
“Members are beginning to think about life without Straus for the first time in a long time,” he says.
This comes at a time when Straus has a broad coalition of support. Moderate Republicans, establishment Republicans, and even conservative Republicans who don’t necessarily identify with bathroom bills, sanctuary city legislation or laws to curb local control, all see him as someone who can stand up to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott, according to Jeffers.
“If he does leave, he’s leaving after getting a lot of things done,” Jeffers says. “He still has firm control of the House. He’s proud of the work the House has done under his tenure.”
Straus, if he does not seek reelection, will be leaving big shoes to fill. Who could be the next Speaker of the House is anyone’s guess, according to Jeffers.
“Remember when Craddick was on the way out? No one identified Straus right away right as a successor,” Jeffers says, referring to the previous Speaker of the Texas House, Tom Craddick. “So it’s probably someone we’re not thinking about.”
Written by Kate Groetzinger.