Speaker’s Race UPDATE: Should There Be One, and Is There a Real Race?

We looked into Speaker Straus’ record to see if critics are correct.

By Gary Polland

Texas Insider Report: HOUSTON, Texas – The Texas Conservative Review has watched with interest the recent “developments” in the Texas Speaker’s race.  With the great GOP victory in November, and with the GOP majority up in the Texas House now at 99 seats, it sure will be easier to pass conservative legislation. But soon after the election, some conservative activists and a handful of legislators decided they wanted a new speaker and a speaker’s race arose.  

We looked into the incumbent Speaker Joe Straus to see if his critics are correct.

As Speaker, in the last cycle he donated around $1.6 million to GOP candidates working closely with such conservative groups as Associated Republicans of Texas, Texans for Lawsuit Reform & the State Republican Party, which makes him a key factor in our great victory this year, picking up 22 House seats in Texas.

As for conservative issues, he:

  1. Joined Attorney General Abbott’s amicus briefs in opposition to Obamacare and
  2. Is in support of the Arizona illegal immigration bill
  3. Has a proven record as an anti-tax & spend conservative
  4. Is a lifelong Republican, former member of the Reagan administration, and
  5. Has a conservative voting record in the Texas House.

And for those who say he isn’t conservative enough, we say look at his plans with a super-majority in the House, as opposed to a nail-biting majority he dealt with last session:

  1. A real Voter ID Bill
  2. Balancing the Texas Budget Without Raising Taxes, and
  3. Strengthening Border Security.

As for the race, it appears all but over. Despite two opponents running for weeks and lots of noise, Speaker Straus has as of today, 120 pledges, down a mere 6 from November 2nd.

It takes 76 votes to be Speaker.

The continuing efforts to attack Straus for not being conservative, or for his religion, are both bogus. The attacks are now needless distractions from our legislators preparing to deal with real issues come January.

When we start discarding those we don’t think are conservative enough, we are heading into a difficult situation where our hold on power would be tenuous at best. This is not a case where we are dealing with a RINO (Republican in name only).

The Texas Conservative Review endorses Joe Straus for Speaker in 2011. We urge all of our friends in the legislature to do the same.

Whatever Happened To Property Tax Relief?

William Lutz in Lone Star Report gave conservatives a friendly reminder – it’s time to get control of runaway property taxes.

His research found:

“According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, local revenue in Texas rose from $65.5 billion in 2000 to $108.1 billion in 2008 … a 65 percent increase. The consumer price index for Houston went from 152.8 to 188.8 during the same period, a 23.6% increase. …

Texas local government spending increased at nearly THREE TIMES the rate of inflation. The Statistical Abstract of the United States publishes a chart listing the effective property tax rate, as a percentage of a home’s value, for the largest city in each state. Our largest city, Houston, was number four.”

It’s time to lower the appraisal cap to 5% and institute necessary reforms so in Houston we can go from No. 4 to No. 25. 99 Republicans in the Texas House should be enough.

It’s The Spending, Not The Tax Cuts, That’s The Problem

In a fascinating new story, the conservative Heritage Foundation laid out a plan to cut 25% of the 2010 deficit in common sense ways.

Their specialist, Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the Heritage Foundation explains what happens if we don’t.

“If Congress does nothing and simply continues existing taxing and spending policies, [annual] federal deficits will grow, reaching a projected $2 trillion deficit in just 10 years – and even that assumes a return to peace and prosperity. Soaring spending drives these dangerous deficits. By 2020, federal spending is set to rise to 26% of the gross domestic product (GDP), after having averaged 20% after World War II… To reduce deficits, Congress must cut spending.”

And he tells us where to cut spending:

“In a budget-cutting study released just last week, the Heritage Foundation showed how to cut $343 billion in federal spending, or more than one-fourth of the 2010 deficit, as a down-payment on putting government spending on a downward trajectory.

“…turning over certain federal programs, such as job training and highway-funding programs, to state and local governments, consolidating hundreds of duplicative programs, ending corporate welfare and abolishing dozens of outdated, ineffective programs. Among the programs he suggests for elimination:

  1. Obamacare
  2. Community Development Block Grant Program
  3. Economic Development Administration
  4. Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  5. Trade and Development Agency
  6. Legal Services Corporation
  7. Job Corps
  8. Rural Utilities Service mandates
  9. Cut the federal employee travel budget in half
  10. Sell off unused federal properties worth billions
  11. Freeze and reform federal pay
  12. Cut House and Senate budgets to 2008 levels
  13. Privatize Amtrak
  14. Replace farm subsidies with Farmer Savings Accounts & improved crop insurance
  15. Rescind remaining stimulus spending

Almost all of the proposed cuts in federal spending will provoke strong objections from constituencies that benefit from having members of Congress give them taxpayer money taken from someone else. … Yet the difficulties caused by each of these cuts should be measured against the status-quo option of doubling the national debt over the next decade, risking an economic crisis, and drowning future generations in taxes.”

TCR Comment: If you wondered, can we reduce Federal spending? The answer is yes.

Gary Polland is publisher of The Texas Conservative Review. Polland is a long-time conservative Republican spokesman & fund-raiser who served 3 terms as Harris County Republican Chairman, during which he was described by Human Events as the most successful county Chairman in America.


  1. Gary Polland, I think you should read these comments from the people who disagree with you and why. I agree with them that Straus has to go and I’m working hard to accomplish that goal.

  2. This is dedicated to all those trying to destroy our wonderful Constitutional Republic.

    “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.” Marcus Tullius Cicero


  3. wayne thorburn: There you go, acting exactly like the leftists in Washington who cannot seem to ever win a debate on the facts! Instead of addressing the specific anti-conservative actions by Speaker Straus during the 2009 session, you falsely attack the commenters for allegedly making PERSONAL attacks on “poor Joe,” the man who only received the “aye” votes of 11 Republicans. After receiving almost universal support from the House Democrats, just where do you believe his loyalties were placed?

    After reading all of the preceeding remarks and links, the very valid reasons for electing a new Speaker…a truly conservative one, like Rep. Paxton, seem crystal clear. Anyone can “talk the talk,” but the 99 Republican members of the next Texas Legislature deserve a leader who will actually
    “walk the talk” for the voters who made it all possible.

  4. wayne thorburn—You can thank Gary all you want and he may call himself Conservative and may be on some issues, but like the rest of the establishment Republicans, he worries more about his PARTY than he does his constituents. As long as he can call himself Conservative and feels it’s fashionable he votes that way. As soon as a real test is put before him he runs to the RINO side like a good little Bundist and sides with a bunch of Democrats. Enough with the Party Faithful—vote principles for a change.

  5. Thanks to Gary Pollland – a lifelong conservative – for putting the Strauss speakership in perspective. I am saddened by the vitriolic and personal attacks on Joe Strauss. Isn’t it ironic that those who say they are not Republicans but call themselves Christian conservatives are the ones weighing in on who should be Speaker?

  6. Yep, looks like you need to try to sell this stuff somewhere else. Grass-roots conservatives, you know, the folks who actually produced the huge new majority in the House, are having none of it.

    You establishment guys can talk all the business-as-usual smack you like but I assure you, the comments you see here are the real deal. If you cannot connect to the political upheaval taking place, fine, as Mary aptly points out, in 2012, you will reap what you’ve sown…we ain’t messin’, simple enough?

    One more thing regarding Mr. Straus so-called conservative credentials. On top of the very relevant ratings from various activist groups that others have mentioned, it is important to note that Straus is not a member of the Texas Conservative Coalition.

    How could that be Mr. Polland? After all, they ARE the conservative caucus of our legislature. With over 70 members, TCC is the second largest caucus, even larger than the entire Dem caucus come next session. Yet, somehow, a “conservative” such as Joe Straus is not a member.

    The fact is that TCC membership is dependent upon one’s voting record. You need a 70% conservative rating to qualify…hmmm. I don’t have the empirical data but my guess is that Mr. Straus simply doesn’t qualify.

  7. Gary–with that snake oil salesman grin, I wonder if you aren’t some way or the other a first cousin of John McCain or Lindsey Graham. You fall into their category and I see nothing they have done to aid the Country and the same must go for you! Repeal the RINOs first, Democrats second, then Replace with true Conservatives.

  8. I hope this endorsement of Joe Straus puts the senseless Republican infighting to bed. I have known Joe all his life, vote for him every chance I get (I live in his district), and trust him to do a great job for conservative Texans.

  9. This guy reminds me of “Baghdad Bob” from Iraq and Robert Gibbs from Obummer Land.
    You can bet Democrat money was involved here.




  11. Dear Texas Representatives:

    On November 2, 2010, Texans and Americans sent a very strong message to politicians in Austin, Texas and Washington D. C. Voters thought the message was unmistakable. But for those who missed it, the message was this: TEXANS AND AMERICANS DO NOT WANT POLITICS AS USUAL. We sent that message by sending home an unprecedented number of incumbents (most of whom were Democrats) and by sending an unprecedented number of conservatives to represent us in Austin and Washington D. C.

    After sending such a strong message to politicians on November 2, 2010, you can imagine how surprised Texas conservatives were to wake up on November 3 to find that our Representatives in the Texas House of Representatives signed a pledge to re-elect the liberal Speaker of the House, Joe Straus. Voters across the state know how this liberal was elected in the first place: 100% of the Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives voted for Straus because he made promises to keep conservative Republicans from presenting bills. Only 11 RINOs voted for Joe Straus for Speaker of the House. Joe Straus kept his promises to Democrats and blocked conservative bills from being presented on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. Of the 11 RINOs who voted for Joe Straus for Speaker only 6 were re-elected — 5 were not re-elected on November 2. That should tell you something.

    You can probably understand how disappointed we were to find that our elected Representatives did not get the message that the voters of Texas were tired of Politics as Usual. All the work we had done to elect an overwhelming majority of Republicans to the Texas House of Representatives would mean nothing with a Speaker who keeps conservatives from presenting their bills on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. Perhaps you can understand how angry that made the voters. In fact, we are so angry we are keeping up with every single Representative who votes for Joe Straus for Speaker, and we are going to get rid of as many of them as we possibly can in the 2012 election. If you think we will forget, you are wrong. We still remember those Representatives who ran off to Oklahoma to keep the House from having a quorum during redistricting.

    Joe Straus may be re-elected Speaker in spite of the will of the voters, and he might do a better job this time. But if he does a better job, it will not be because he is a Conservative Republican. It will be because the people of Texas clearly made it known we do not want this RINO back in a leadership position. If the San Antonio voters want him to represent them, that is their business. But the voters of Texas do not want him. You can keep your promise to elect this RINO if you feel you must, but you should know the voters of Texas keep their promises also. We’re looking forward to the Election of 2012.

    Thank you for reconsidering your support for Speaker Joe Straus. I assure you the voters do not consider Joe Straus a Conservative Republican and Texas voters do not want him to be our leader.

    Mary Lou Bruner
    East Texas

    P.S. One more thing — It is ridiculous for some people to suggest that Texans’ dislike for this RINO is based on his religious preference. We probably would not even know he is Jewish if the liberals had not made an issue of it.


  13. I hope it doesn’t take the 2012 elections to get a conservative Republican Texas State Legislature. Gary you are saying it will. You claim Straus money got the 99 elected. You say he will win because he has all the Democrats voting for him. You lie for Straus now. There are also some things Joe Straus has done that would keep me from voting for him in any elective office. He actively campaigned for incumbent Democrat Patrick Rose in District 45 against conservative Republican Jason Issac. He got the speaker job last time because he got the Democrats to vote for him along with a few Republicans. He has a 100 per cent pro-abortion record according to NARAL. Any one of these three reasons would keep me from voting for him for any office. His money has been his biggest draw for support. For some money is more important as a way to get re-elected than standing by the principles that got them elected.

  14. This article CAN’T be serious in it’s assertion that Straus is a good politician for Texas and also a conservative. How much did Straus pay this guy to write this article?

    Regarding the “list” of things Straus wants to achieve in the upcoming session. Where is the following?

    1. NULLIFY OBAMACARE in the State of Texas. This should be number one on EVERY legislators list.

    2. Cut the size of Texas government.

    3. End property tax and replace it with something along the lines of a consumption tax?

    4. Pass legislation that protects Texan’s wallets and rights from the intrusive federal government and federal courts (read “Nullification” by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.) for the facts about Nullification and constitutional suggestions for GENUINE change…not the pablum than constantly comes out of our legislative sessions.

  15. Gracious Gary!

    “A handful of legislators”? I’ve heard a loud cry from far more than a “handful” of legislators. It is not so much what you said as what you didn’t say.

    Strauss is a moderate at best with a new conservative majority. Ken Paxton would be a much better choice for speaker to speak for the majority.

    It took more than a “handful” of Democratic legislators to to put Strauss into his position.

    It’s time to put in a Texas House Speaker speaks for the majority and for the people of Texas.

    It’s not Strauss!

  16. Another ringing endorsement for Joe Straus that neglects to tell the full story. Gary, this is really dismaying, coming from you.

    Joe Straus, when he was still just another House member, scored a lifetime composite conservative rating of just 67 from Young Conservatives of Texas. In 2007, his last session in that role, he got a 62. Empower Texans also rated the Legislature in 2007, and Joe Straus scored a 71.43. According to Heritage Alliance, which rates on fiscal and social issues, he got a 52% in 2007. How that gets him the title of “conservative” is really baffling, since most people would consider those to be failing scores.

    Straus’ appropriations chairman, Jim Pitts, talks a good game on not raising taxes, even though that’s not really up to the appropriations committee. It’s up to ways and means, which is chaired by liberal Democrat Rene Oliviera, who does his level best to keep the token Republicans on his committee from passing any meaningful, long-term tax reform. Meanwhile, Pitts told his committee this summer that he wants to look into new “revenue streams”, like gambling expansion.

    Straus has proven to be a poor leader, or at best a leader for the knife’s edge majority Republicans had last time. He was a compromise candidate to quell the Democrats and unite the 11 ABC Republicans. The situation has changed. Texans don’t have to settle with whatever makes the Democratic caucus happy. Time for a new speaker.

  17. THIS CLOWN IS A JACK@$$…………………………………………………that’s what the emblem that represents the DEMON RAT party is.
    ” There are braying men in the world as well as braying asses; for what’s loud and senseless talking and swearing, any other than braying”
    —Sir Roger L’Estrange
    Speaker Joe Straus needs to be REPLACED with a REAL CONSERVATIVE:

  18. C’mon Gary … I know I’m in the fight of my life and I really need to win this election, but you can’t go around lying about me being a conservative. I got elected speaker because I’m a MODERATE! A bipartisan sort of guy. Why else would the Democrats have been OK with me? That, and I promised them that I would kill Voter ID and I appointed one of their own to the Chair Ways and Means so that they could kill tax reform, and I put a bunch of them in charge of Calendars. And they got good results too … they won more votes on the House floor than the Republicans did!

    When the Republican caucus flips to supporting Paxton here in a few weeks, I’m gonna need the full support of all the Democrats and moderate Republicans (and the handful of Republican suits who I’ve bought off with campaign contributions and plush committee spots) if I’m going to hold on to the gavel.

    You can’t go around lying to the Democratic reps that I’m going to push through Voter ID when I promised them I wouldn’t! I need their support! I’m a moderate Republican, not a Conservative. Hell, you should realize that … I don’t even claim to be one in my campaign materials … I always say “lifelong Republican” rather than conservative because I want to be honest with everybody and I want to keep my liberal support.

    As for this, “balancing the budget” nonsense … of course I’m going to. WE HAVE TO BALANCE THE BUDGET. I PUT UP WITH IT LAST SESSION AND WE’RE GOING TO DO IT AGAIN THIS TIME. But I’ll let you and my Democratic allies in on a secret … we’re going to use budgetary tricks, hidden fee increases, and a last minute raid on the Rainy Day Fund to keep government as plump as possible.

    So, please Gary, don’t lie about my record. I’m a moderate Republican … not a conservative.


    Speaker Joe Straus III

    PS. Did you catch my Mom’s donations to Democrats in 2008 and 2010? Lifelong Republicans my butt … they’re bipartisan just like me! Leticia Van de Putte in April, 2010. Ruth Jones McClendon in August, 2008. Judith Zaffirini in April 2008. Jose Menendez in April, July, and December 2008.

  19. You’re just yanking my chain, right? I wonder what you must think of the Baker Institute Study on what the 81st Leg actually accomplished under the leadership of Speaker Straus.

    Here’s a couple of questions for you Mr. Polland. Is there a Republican in the state house you would regard as not conservative (a RINO as you put it)? Can you name a GOP legislator who you consider LESS conservative than Mr. Strauss?

  20. This is two separate articles and should have been divided at the line: “Whatever Happened To Property Tax Relief?”

    Mr. Pollard, I am from the greater Houston area and have lived in that area since 1956. I am familiar with you. Sir, I don’t see eye-to-eye with you nor do I agree with your recommendation of Joe Straus. Ken Paxton is the man I support. You said something that disturbs me deeply. You said, “When we start discarding those we don’t think are conservative enough, we are heading into a difficult situation where our hold on power would be tenuous at best.” Sir, the words “hold on power” is rhetoric that makes me bristle. I’m a Christian Constitutional Conservative and NOT a Republican. There are millions like me and we are no longer loyal to your beloved Republican party. Please remember that.

    Mr. Pollard, if Joe Straus is elected Speaker of the house, we’ll be watching his appointments to the two key positions in the Texas House of Representatives, i.e. Chair of Calendars and the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. If liberal Republicans and Democrats are appointed to those chairmanships again, then Mr. Pollard your credability is in the toilet and I hope Mr. Straus will be thrown out on his ear. Mr. Pollard please read the following link about your friend Mr. Straus.


    The property tax issue in the second part of the article will be addressed later.

  21. Gary, tell me you’re not serious. After reading your endorsement of Straus, I have to wonder if you are somehow tied to him or would somehow benefit personally from him retaining the Speakership. The pitiful conservative credentials you listed tell us little to nothing: being a lifelong Republican tells us nothing about his values, opposing Obamacare doesn’t prove he’s a conservative on other issues, and endorsing Arizona’s immigration law is pure, empty rhetoric when faced with the FACT that not one piece of immigration reform passed during his entire tenure as Speaker last session. Additionally, you claim he has a conservative voting record? Well, Gary, unfortunately for both you and Straus the FACTS of the matter prove a different story entirely. Allow me to quote some FACTS copied from http://www.teaparty911.com:
    Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) rated the Committee Chair Appointments during the last legislative session of the Texas House and the results were far from conservative. The average conservative score of the Committee Chair appointments by Straus was an abysmal 42 out of a possible 100, a drop of 25 points from the previous legislative session. Straus appointed Brian McCall to the second most powerful legislative position in the Texas House, the Chair of Calendars. YCT’s legislative rating of McCall was a pitiful 27 which paints McCall as one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives. McCall used his position to block many conservative legislators completely out of the legislative process. Straus also appointed Democrat Rene Oliveira to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. YCT’s score of Oliveira was a 15. Oliveira blocked conservative legislation aimed at reforming Texas’s property tax system and also legislation aimed at cutting taxes. Oliveira also blocked any bill from exiting his committee that was not authored or co-authored by a Democrat. The list of Straus committee chair appointments goes on and on with a similar pattern throughout. It is no wonder that Straus has the support of the Democrats for his re-election to the position of Speaker.
    In 2007, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas gave Straus a 100 percent rating; however Straus only voted in one of the nine votes that NARAL considered crucial. Apparently, Mr. Straus is only willing to take a stand on the tough issues and actually vote only 11% of the time. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas rates Straus as a 73 based on 2005-2009 averages. Also based on 2005-2009 averages, Texas Right to Life rates Straus a 50, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility a 71, the Heritage Alliance a 52, and TNFIB a 73. The ratings for Straus’s challenger for Speaker, Ken Paxton, suggest a completely different story. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas rates Paxton a 3, Texas Right to Life a 100, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility a 100, the Heritage Alliance a 91, and TNFIB a 100. Based on the analysis of these groups, Ken Paxton is clearly the true conservative running for Texas Speaker of the House.
    Gary, sometimes the FACTS can sure get in the way of an endorsement, can’t they?
    Clearly, Straus is NOT the conservative you weakly argue he is, and yet you won’t hear a soul anywhere in the world dispute Ken Paxton’s conservative credentials. Since the election results unmistakably prove that the overwhelming majority of Texans want TRUE, PROVEN conservatives running their legislature, why then–as a self-appointed conservative spokesman–would you show Texans the dishonor of not endorsing the candidate that the FACTS PROVE to be the TRUE CONSERVATIVE?
    I thank you for your years of service to the Republican party and Texas conservatives, but in this case I feel you owe us a recant, an endorsement of Paxton, and an apology.

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