On October 9th, the Bexar County Republican Party Executive Committee will vote on the Rule 44 Censure resolution addressing Speaker Joe Straus. While county officials have attempted to construct a firewall to stop any deliberation let alone a vote by the whole committee through parliamentary tricks, it is highly doubtful that these tactics will prevail in stopping the democratic process that Texas Republicans in Bexar County prize and hold dear. Many precinct chairs are outraged by the artificial and arbitrary restrictions set up by County Chair, Robert Stovall, and his staff to silence and disenfranchise Straus’ critics. Popular support for the Censure Straus Resolution among Bexar County precinct chairs is growing rapidly by the day.
In a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle published on September 30th, Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Chairman James Dickey spoke candidly when he said votes of no confidence or even the a censure of a sitting Republican leader isn’t a problem: “As Republicans we are big fans of free speech and open discussions. I’d argue it is probably a good thing to be able to express these issues openly.”
To date 73 Republican organizations in Texas have adopted a “no confidence” or censure resolution opposing Straus’ leadership. Fifty two of these organizations are official Republican Party county committees representing counties which comprise over 52% of Texas’ population. In a survey this past July addressed to Republican leaders in Texas including the Bexar County precinct chairs, all the Texas county committee chairs, and the state Republican executive committee who make up the RPT membership, the majority of respondents said they would vote to replace Speaker Joe Straus. In this same survey, the overwhelming majority of Republican Party leaders at the grassroots level support the priorities of Gov. Greg Abbott.
According to the Houston Chronicle article of September 30th, Governor Abbott expressed before a talk show audience that more House members should be willing to buck the speaker’s priorities. “We’ve got to either make sure we have the current speaker support those principles, or we’ve got to get the votes in the House to make sure we’re going to get those principles passed,” Abbott said.
The majority of Republican members of the House of Representatives met in Bastrop two weeks ago and discussed reforming the process by which the Speaker is elected by House members. Speaker Straus has craftily built a coalition of Democrat members with a small minority of Republicans to ensure his reelection as Speaker. Many of these politicians are rewarded with choice committee appointments. (Read Train Wreck Ahead Courtesy of Joe Straus by Republican blogger, John Dalton) The current Republican representatives plan on changing House procedures to ensure the majority party members vote for their candidate as a caucus while minimizing the inordinate influence of the members of the minority party.
I see a three prong approach coalescing to solve a serious recurring problem within the Republican Party of Texas where the priorities of the highest elected officials of the state – the Republican Governor and Lt. Governor – who were duly elected by the majority voters of Texas to carry out the business of the people are thwarted by a tyrannical, cunning Speaker. The Governor and Lt. Governor have made their concerns known publicly about the disruptive tactics of Speaker Straus and his surrogates. The Republican members of the House are holding themselves accountable as they work to adopt new procedures within sixty days to ensure the new Speaker of the House will adopt a fair and democratic process in the House where the Speaker respects the obligations and responsibilities of the elected body to carry out the business of the state and the interests of their constituents rather than the personal preferences of a Speaker whose district represents a small minority of the Texas electorate. The role of the Bexar County Ad Hoc committee to adopt a resolution to censure Straus is to enable the political process whereby the pattern of obstruction and political chicanery of Speaker Joe Straus are exposed before all Texans and brought out into the clear light of day.
Phil Sevilla is a Precinct Chair and member of the Republican Party Bexar County Executive Committee; He is a co-sponsor of the Rule 44 Censure Straus Resolution.