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TribBlog: Berman's Cup of Tea

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, said he's counting on Tea Party supporters to call their state representatives and urge them to vote for him for Speaker instead of incumbent Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, says he expects the support of Tea Party loyalists to help usher him into the House Speaker's apartment in the Capitol next year.

Berman said he's counting on vocal Tea Party supporters to call their state representatives — newly elected ones and longtime conservatives — and urge them to vote for him instead of incumbent Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

"They don’t want someone like Joe Straus, who stands for nothing, who’ll tell the Democrats there won’t be any illegal alien bills and there won’t be any voter ID bills on the floor of the House," Berman said. "I’m going to give these nice conservative Republicans someone that they can vote for proudly."

David Simpson, R-Longview, won his March primary challenge against longtime state Rep. Tommy Merritt, of Longview, with the help of the Tea Party. Simpson said he thinks Berman would be a good conservative man for the job, but he's not making any pledges just yet.

"I’m just a freshman, not even truly elected yet," said Simpson, who faces a Libertarian candidate in the November general election. "I’ve been asked for pledges, but I want to remain independent."

Simpson isn't the only far-right Republican holding back his commitment. Veteran state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said he is also not taking any position on the speaker’s race for now. Like Simpson, he wants to focus on getting more Republicans elected to the House first.

"I think we have a great chance of increasing our majority to 85 or 86," King said.

Berman said he expects to win the speaker race because he's also convinced there will be a bigger Republican majority in the House.

"I’m not doing this for nothing. I expect to win the race," Berman said. "Straus has a number of pledge cards. I don’t need pledge cards. I’m campaigning as a speaker that will be a fair speaker. I’ll hear everyone’s bills and won’t make any commitments to Democrats whatsoever."

Straus' office has not yet responded to requests for comment. We'll update as soon as his office replies.

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