Tea Party ‘Idiots’

It’s no surprise House Speaker Joe Straus isn’t a conservative; that’s not news. But the contempt for which he and his closest advisers hold conservatives was only fully revealed this weekend. Support for Mr. Straus is, paraphrasing an Austin news blogger, a vote against “tea party Republicans … and social conservative issues.” It’s a surprising admission from a pro-Straus capitol journalist.


Joe Straus

After all, Mr. Straus has given cover to many of his House allies by taking credit for what fiscal and social conservative gains were made in the last session – even though everyone knows those things happened in spite of his team.

A series of revealing — and often profane — e-mails between Straus staffers was posted this weekend at the venerable RedState.com. The e-mails date from the time of redistricting, when the Straus team was at work trying to punish conservatives.

The speaker’s personal confidant and partner in the horse racing industry, lobbyist Gordon Johnson, calls tea party activists “idiots.”

Mr. Johnson is a lobbyist and campaign consultant who held no position in Mr. Straus’ speaker office, but it’s apparent he was calling the shots in redistricting and setting the tone for the office. (Johnson has a long record of working to unseat conservatives electorally.)

In another e-mail, Mr. Johnson referred to State Rep. Van Taylor of Plano (a decorated Marine) as “stupid” and “impolite.” Taylor’s sin? He tweeted the factual news that State Rep. Larry Taylor of Friendswood (now a senator-elect) would not pledge support for Straus at the end of the legislative session.


Rather than risk defeat, Burt Solomons chose not to seek reelection

In the e-mails posted at RedState.com, Straus’ chief of staff, Denise Davis, cheered on retiring State Rep. Burt Solomons of Carrollton — the chairman of the redistricting committee — when he wrote “F**k Wayne [Christian] & Phil [King].” Apparently Mr. Solomons didn’t like State Reps. Christian and King trying to find ways to improve the Straus teams’s (conservative-punishing) maps.

But Messers. Solomons and Straus got their way with Mr. Christian: they drew him and State Rep. Jim Landtroop out of 80 percent of their districts.

In the e-mails other Straus staffers – even his counsel – openly mocked senior leaders of the state Republican party’s governing executive committee when they tried to get information about redistricting.

Now, make no mistake; everyone agrees the maps included attacks on conservatives. The release of the e-mails on RedState.com inspired Texas Monthly blogger Paul Burka to write a Sunday night post in which he wrote that Straus used redistricting to “reward [his] friends and punish [his] enemies.”

Of course, the only losses sustained by conservatives were those engineered in redistricting by Straus and Solomons. The Straus team, on the other hand, sustained big losses in the primary election season. They couldn’t even protect challenged committee chairmen, from conservative second-benchers like Sid Miller to moderates like Vicki Truitt and Tuffy Hamilton, to powerful first-bench Straus supporters like Rob Eissler.

According to Mr. Burka, there are two sides in the Texas House: (1) the “Straus team”, and (2) “tea party Republicans who fought for budget cuts and social conservative issues.” Burka’s (accidental?) honesty will make it harder for legislators to vote for Straus while claiming to be conservatives.

On which side has your candidate for the Texas House campaigned? As a Straus moderate, or as a fiscal and social conservative? Just as importantly, do you know how they’ll vote on the speakership?

If not, you should ask them. Or simply tell them your expectations. Clearly, a vote for Joe Straus as speaker is a vote to undermine not just conservative reforms but conservatives in general.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans, and its premier project, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capital Hill staffer, think tank vice president and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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