State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said in a press release he's withdrawing his pledge to support Speaker Joe Straus in the coming session, claiming Team Straus is "using the redistricting process as retribution."
In his release, Hughes detailed a conversation with an undisclosed member of the speaker's leadership team, in which the lieutenant told him redistricting maps were already being drawn "to punish members not on Straus' list of supporters."
More specifically, this member told me that maps were already being drawn to get rid of Representative-Elect Erwin Cain (R-Sulphur Springs) and Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van), because they were not on the Speaker's list of supporters.
I was then told that I had nothing to worry about in redistricting, so long as I stayed on the Speaker’s list.
This conversation first saddened and then disgusted me.
Using the redistricting process for retribution reminds us of all that is wrong with politics. The Speaker's race should be decided not based on threats of punishment and not on promises of power, but on principle.
The speaker's press secretary had not heard of the defection when reached by phone; she said she's going to call back with a response.
UPDATE: With regard to Hughes' account of threats, Straus spokeswoman Tracy Young says, "The speaker would never condone any of that behavior, in any circumstance." She says, "Speaker Straus is committed to a fair and ethical redistricting process." Sources in the office say no maps have been drawn, since census numbers aren't in yet.
UPDATE 5:36pm: The speaker has responded a strongly worded statement of his own:
“These allegations are outrageous and I have a call into Rep. Hughes to insist that he name the individual with whom he had this alleged conversation. I did not and would never authorize, allow, or condone linking redistricting in any way with the Speaker’s race, and anyone who knows me knows better than to give that assertion any credence. When Rep. Hughes called me earlier today to discuss his pledge, he never offered this as an explanation. He did say that revoking his pledge to me was more difficult than revoking his pledge in previous Speaker's races."
"If any member, or their staff, is attempting to influence the outcome of the Speaker's race through implications of political retribution, those actors should immediately be brought to the attention of the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics. Today, allegations were made in a press release from the office of Rep. Bryan Hughes. Rep. Hughes must step forward with the name of the individual referred to in his letter. With that information the committee can conduct an investigation to determine whether violations of state law occurred."