House Speaker Joe Straus, a frequent target of conservatives within his own Republican Party, is rolling out endorsements from two anti-abortion groups today — including one that previously opposed his continued reign of the state House.
The Texas Alliance for Life and the Texans for Life Coalition both threw their support behind Straus in his re-election bid. The San Antonio Republican has drawn an opponent, businessman Matt Beebe, in the May 29 Republican primary.
“Members of these important pro-life organizations are some of the most dedicated and passionate advocates at the Texas Capitol, and I am honored to have their endorsements of my leadership and our work to protect life,” Straus said, according to prepared remarks.
Beebe is running as the “true conservative” in the race and has gotten some prominent Republican activists and leaders, including former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Wallbuilders president David Barton, to campaign for him. In January, Beebe's campaign also put out a long list of pro-life leaders endorsing him, including the founders of Operation Save America and Pro-Life Nation.
Straus has answered the unusual challenge in his home district with indignation, saying he has the record to prove his conservative credentials. On abortion in particular, Straus has proudly noted that he was at the helm of the House when one of the country’s most restrictive anti-abortion measures — requiring women to get sonograms before undergoing the procedure — passed into law.
Joe Pojman, director of the Texas Alliance for Life, opposed Straus when he ran for re-election as speaker in 2011. He said then that Straus “cannot be called pro-life” because he had taken money from Planned Parenthood and had praised the nonprofit for its work promoting women’s health.
It’s a different story now.
"It is our view that Speaker Straus is well-deserving of the support of pro-life voters in House District 121,” Pojman said, according to prepared remarks. “Under his leadership as Speaker during the 82nd Legislature and the First Called Special Session, the Texas Legislature passed more pro-life legislation than in any other session in the history of Texas."
Straus has in the past said he rejects labels like “pro-choice” and “pro-life,” but he now says firmly he is in the pro-life camp and opposes abortion in all cases except rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger.
Apart from ideological issues, Straus is crushing Beebe in fundraising. At last count, Straus had $4.3 million in the bank, compared with $32,000 for his challenger.
After word broke that Straus had snagged the pro-life endorsements, Beebe issued a press release saying the speaker had undergone an "election road conversion." He also took a slap at the anti-abortion activists who are now backing Straus.
"To the shame of these individual leaders, they are not compromising, but they are capitulating," Beebe said.
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