A new Texas political action committee is turning up the heat on Speaker Joe Straus and calling for a House cleaning from the top down, with campaign funds earmarked for key races.
Formed by conservatives angry over the House’s failure to enact reform measures supported by Gov. Greg Abbott, the New Leadership PAC launched this week.
“It has become clear that leaders in the Texas House have lost contact with the core principles of the majority of Texans,” said NLP treasurer Don Dyer. “It is time for a new force for change that will remove these barriers to progress.”
During the month-long special session, the Texas Senate passed bills on all 20 of the governor’s initiatives, while the Texas House only passed 11. The NLP noted that the House failed to get many important bills out of committees and to the floor for a vote, which Dyer said reflected a lack of will by House Republican leaders to advance conservative, reform-oriented priorities.
Among the bills killed in the House: property tax relief, school choice, limits on city and county spending, and ending forced collection of union dues by local governments.
In August, Abbott’s top political strategist, Dave Carney, told the Austin American-Statesman, “It’s pretty clear the culture of the House is corrupt, that it’s a non-transparent system, that doesn’t allow [its members] to have an up or down vote.” NLP resurrected that quote in its press release.
In the release, NLP said it will “encourage and support new leadership at all levels in the Texas House during the 2018 primary season and beyond.”
Dyer said the PAC is “encouraging new leadership both from within and from outside of the House.”
“One initiative we’ll be pursuing is campaign support for new candidates in key house districts. Our current plans are to provide a $5,000 contribution to challenger candidates in those districts, with the potential for additional follow on support where it makes sense.”
The group did not disclose its current war chest or targets, but Dyer told The Texas Monitor: “We are raising funds now and based on initial contributions and commitments, we believe we will be able to play a meaningful role in many races this coming primary cycle.”
Characterizing the PAC as a volunteer effort, Dyer said there have been no conversations with Abbott or the governor’s staff. “But I think it’s clear from statements from the governor, his top advisers and many other leaders across the state following the failed special session that there’s more than just frustration with House leadership.”
In an email to The Texas Monitor, Dyer said, “This PAC is not about bathrooms. This PAC is about failed leadership in the House on many fronts.”
While 63 percent of House members are Republicans, Dyer noted that several free-market bills “never even made it out of committee.”
“On top of that the House decided to gavel out of the special session a day early — with so many important initiatives left undone. This is not a reflection on the total membership of the House, this is a reflection on the leadership of the House.”
Dyer said the need for a shakeup is simmering across Texas, with the passage of resolutions demanding changes in House leadership by 54 Republican Party county chapters representing more than half the state’s GOP voters.
The 54 counties include Harris (Houston) and Bexar (San Antonio), Straus’ home base.
A House Republican Caucus committee is studying new ways to select the House speaker. One idea under consideration would reserve the speaker vote to Republican House members — excluding Democrats who Straus has relied on to hold power since 2009.
Straus, who controls the well-endowed House Leadership Fund, was not immediately available for comment.
[This article was first published by The Texas Monitor on October 19, 2017]
Kenric Ward is a veteran journalist whose work has appeared at Fox News, Houston Chronicle, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, TownHall, Roll Call, and Human Events. An editor and reporter at three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Ward was Virginia bureau chief for Watchdog.org before relocating to Texas. He earned a bachelor’s degree (Phi Beta Kappa) in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.