The Texas House formally re-elected San Antonio Republican Speaker Joe Straus. In a 132-15 record vote, members chose to stick with the moderate, "will-of-the-House" speaker as opposed to overthrowing him with someone more conservative. Two lawmakers were present but didn't vote.
"Joe Straus leads with respect," said Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, in his nomination speech. "He respects the members, he respects the process, and he respects the House as an institution."
The vote wasn't a surprise — the Republican Caucus gave Straus 70 of 100 votes in a straw poll on Monday afternoon. While Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, dropped his challenge to Straus early this morning, Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, waited to do it on the House floor in advance of the vote.
The votes against Straus — the lawmakers who may well be defined as "anybody but Straus" — weren't much of a problem today but could represent a voting bloc that could continue to be a thorn in Straus' side. They include Republican Reps. Van Taylor, Phil King, Dan Flynn, Jim Landtroop, Jodie Laubenberg, David Simpson, Tan Parker, Ken Paxton, James White, Bill Zedler, Charles Perry, Leo Berman, Cindy Burkett, Wayne Christian and Erwin Cain. Those present but not voting? Republican Reps. Bryan Hughes and Jason Isaac.
The race was far more exciting in the lead-up to opening day than it was on the House floor today. After gaining dozens of House seats during the November election, conservative groups pushed for more conservative speaker candidates. Paxton and Chisum vowed that if elected, they would choose more conservative chairman to lead influential House committees. Meanwhile, the race — the first one in which grassroots groups had legal cover to lobby and campaign for candidates — got particularly fiery, at times even taking an anti-Semitic tone.
"Threats of retribution, attacks on peoples' religious beliefs, distortion of peoples' records, have no place in this House," Straus said in his address before the chamber.