House Speaker Joe Straus said Wednesday that he was happy with the election results in spite of the fact that he "lost a few friends," and that he's confident he'll get another term as speaker, and verbally backhanded a third-party group he said helped fuel his opponent's campaign.
"I felt good about the results, all in all," Straus told a group of reporters the day after the election.
He said 18 of the 21 House chairmen who were seeking new terms survived the primaries (two will be in runoffs on July 31). But he acknowledged the high turnover from retirements and election losses.
"I'm sorry to have lost a few friends," Straus said. "That's part of the process, especially after redistricting."
A number of chairmen decided not to seek new terms. That, along with the three election defeats, means "there is going to be quite a bit of movement in leadership next session," Straus said.
State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, filed papers with the Texas Ethics Commission over the Memorial Day holiday weekend saying he would challenge Straus for the speaker's job when lawmakers convene next year. Straus said the two haven't talked about it.
"The last conversation I had with him was well before the last session when he called to tell me that he was going to revoke his support for me and how terribly badly he felt about that," Straus said. "He felt just as badly about that as the time he revoked his support for my predecessor."
Straus said he's confident about winning another term. "I feel like I'm in good shape," he said. "I have the broad support of members."
Straus said he doesn't read large themes in the results, or see particular groups or interests dominating. Asked about one in particular — the Empower Texans group headed by Michael Quinn Sullivan — the speaker went on at length.
"I got to know him pretty well in my own district. He pretty much dropped the subtleties, I would say," Straus said. "I don't see a lot of teeth there, in his bite. I think he is very much out of touch with conservatives. He's certainly out of touch with the conservatives that I represent.
"He was spectacularly unsuccessful. And frankly, I don't consider him much of a factor," Straus said. "His biggest problem with me is that I keep succeeding. We've got a conservative House here, and he's not part of it."
Sullivan's read of the election is much different; at least in part, he sees Tuesday's results as a referendum on Straus' leadership in the House. Five members of that team were either defeated or bowed — two of them face runoffs — and others decided they'd rather stay home or run for other offices than come back. Where the speaker sees turnover, Sullivan sees a message.
"There is no reason for Joe Straus to listen to me," Sullivan said. "He should be listening to the voters of Texas who sent three of his committee chairs packing.
"He should be listening to those folks," he said. "Those folks are saying what they want done."
Straus was one of several House members who endorsed Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, last summer, before Wentworth became the focus of an intense primary challenge from emergency room doctor Donna Campbell and former Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones. Wentworth and Campbell are on their way to a runoff. Straus didn't take a position on the "regrettable" race, at least not directly. He said that he's known Wentworth for years, that he doesn't really know Campbell and that he hasn't withdrawn last year's endorsement. He said he was trying to be discreet.
"I really try hard to stay out of Senate politics, with the false hope that they will do the same for me," he said.