Despite organized efforts to unseat him, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said Wednesday he is confident his colleagues will re-elect him to the post so he can focus the 2013 legislative session on “serious issues” for a fast-growing state.
Speaking to reporters after a luncheon held by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and Opportunity Austin, Straus said he enjoys the "vast majority of support from members of both parties," though he has not publicly released any names or a headcount to back it up. His opponent, state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, officially launched his campaign for speaker this week, and he has not released names or a headcount either.
“I’ve talked to most of the members,” Straus said. “They agree with where the priorities that I’ve set for the House should be. Other members, if they have helpful suggestions, are certainly welcome to weigh in. And if Mr. Simpson wants to run for speaker, for example, it’s his choice."
A call to Simpson for comment was not immediately returned.
Asked if House members were being asked to sign pledge cards for him, Straus said he has never collected pledge cards. After a pause, he added, “Pledge cards, I assume, exist.”
Straus said his priorities for the upcoming session are broad: education, transportation, water, jobs and budget transparency.
“It’s 2013 in a couple of weeks,” he said. “We have 17 years before 33 million people live here. They need to be educated. They need to have opportunities and we have not done a very good job in recent years of addressing serious issues. That’s what we’re going to do starting in January.”
Asked about a so-called fetal pain measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks, legislation touted on Tuesday by Gov. Rick Perry, Straus declined to say whether he would support it, but strongly implied that he doesn’t view the proposal as a priority.
“I don’t see how it directly affects the agenda of education and transportation and water resources and budget transparency and manufacturing jobs,” Straus said. “But there are thousands of bills that will be filed as there always are and it sounds like that may be one of them. But the top of the agenda for me will be education, resources, infrastructure, the things that will help Texans cope with the tremendous growth we’re seeing in this state.”
When asked by a reporter about conservative groups that have been championing efforts to end his tenure as speaker, such as AgendaWise Texas and Women on the Wall, Straus suggested their efforts may be helping him more than hurting him.
“Whatever is happening there is working for me,” Straus said. “To call them groups is a bit generous of you. AgendaWise, as far as I know, is some guy at a computer [with] kind of a caustic approach to politics which I reject and always have. Women on the Wall, I have no idea who they are.”
AgendaWise Texas writer Weston Hicks sent the following statement in an email: "We thank Speaker Straus for the plug, and are proud to have him as a reader. He should know, however, we don't just have computers. We have cell phones and a printer, too."