House Speaker Straus Won't Seek Re-Election

Joe Straus, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives since 2009 -- and a lightning rod for political fury from a fellow Republican, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick -- will not seek re-election.

Straus made the announcement Wednesday.

"Even as politics has become more tribal and divisive, I’ve led by bringing people together and working across party lines," said Straus, who was openly targeted by Patrick and others who disagrees with him on policy issues. "We’ve fallen short at times. But on our best days, we have shown that there is still a place for civility and statesmanship in American politics."

The San Antonio Republican was first elected to the House in 2005.

“The political center collapsed today in the Lone Star State as Straus announced he would not seek re-election,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. “Over the past decade, the center of gravity within the Texas Republican Party has shifted to the right, with the movement conservative/tea party wing in ascendency, and the centrist conservative wing in decline. Today the transformation can be seen as complete, with the movement conservative wing now in complete control, and the centrist conservative wing a mere shell of its former self.”

Straus and his allies -- such as Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, who also announced Wednesday that he would not seek re-election -- blocked many pieces of conservative legislation, ranging from the "bathroom bill" to school choice legislation to property tax reform.

"With Speaker Straus’ departure, the next speaker of the Texas House who assumes office in January of 2019 will be much more conservative, and much more in line politically with Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick,” Jones said. 

Here is the full text of Straus' announcement:

I first ran for the Texas House in 2005 to be a voice for our community and for the principles that I had spent years advancing behind the scenes. It did not occur to me that I would ever become Speaker of the House. (And I’ve learned that it didn’t occur to anyone else, either!)

However, after an unusual and unexpected chain of events, my 149 colleagues chose me to be our presiding officer less than four years later. I’ve since won re-election four times with the support of an overwhelming majority of House Members from each political party. In every legislative session, I’ve tried to bring real solutions to real challenges. For example, we’ve made significant gains in K-12 and higher education, water, transportation, and mental health care. But just as important as what we’ve done is the way in which we’ve done it. Even as politics has become more tribal and divisive, I’ve led by bringing people together and working across party lines. We’ve fallen short at times. But on our best days, we have shown that there is still a place for civility and statesmanship in American politics.

I believe that in a representative democracy, those who serve in public office should do so for a time, not for a lifetime. And so I want you to know that my family and I have decided that I will not run for re-election next year. My time as a State Representative and as Speaker will end at the conclusion of my current term.

Just as my ascension to the Speaker’s office was unconventional and my approach to governing is unusual in these divisive times, I know this is also an unexpected decision. It’s been decades since someone has left the Speaker’s office on his own terms. But we have accomplished what I had hoped the House would accomplish when I first entered this office, and I am increasingly eager to contribute to our state in new and different ways.

Instead of acting on behalf of the entire House, I will now have a greater opportunity to express my own views and priorities. I will also continue to work for a Republican Party that tries to bring Texans together instead of us pulling us apart. Our party should be dynamic and forward-thinking, and it should appeal to our diverse population with an optimistic vision that embraces the future. I plan to be a voice for Texans who want a more constructive and unifying approach to our challenges, from the White House on down.

I want to thank Julie and our daughters, Sara and Robyn, for their love and support. I also want to thank my parents, Joci and Joe, who have set a wonderful example for me and taught me a true appreciation for public service. I want to thank my House colleagues for giving me the privilege of leading, and I want to thank the members of my staff who have worked so tirelessly to help the House succeed. Most of all, I want to thank the people of District 121 in Bexar County for giving me the chance to work on your behalf. Your strong support has provided a foundation upon which I could stand and provide leadership for our entire state.

One of my heroes, President George H.W. Bush, said, “Any definition of a successful life must include serving others.” I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the Texas House, and I look forward to talking to you more in the future about my continued service to the state of Texas.

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