Sunset On A Bad Relationship?

Legislative liberals are howling like scorned lovers over the appointment of Republican State Rep. Larry Taylor to the Sunset Commission. The Democratic Caucus is indignant, saying House Speaker Joe Straus isn’t providing the “inclusiveness” and “parity” they say he promised when they delivered him the speakership in 2009. Mr. Straus is finding that those who brought him to the dance are playing music to which it’s difficult to two-step.

The opening on the commission comes as State Rep. Carl Isett (R-Lubbock) formally resigns the House seat from which he last year announced he was retiring. (He didn’t seek re-election and will in all likelihood be replaced in January by John Frullo.) The Sunset Commission considers the continuation of state agencies, making recommendations to the legislature on overall reform, consolidation or elimination.

The Houston Chronicle’s blog “Texas Politics” on Saturday noted:

House Democrats are not as enthused with House Speaker Joe Straus today as they were when they essentially made him speaker nearly 18 months ago when the San Antonio Republican emerged to take on incumbent Tom Craddick, R-Midland.

If anything, Taylor’s appointment to the Sunset seat held by the conservative Carl Isett preserves the status quo, a hallmark of Mr. Straus’ speakership.

After all, just two weeks ago Mr. Straus was raising money for the Democrat’s fair-haired state rep., Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs — helping the already well-monied other-party incumbent over a GOP challenger.

Preserving the status quo doesn’t have much support. Mr. Straus’ fellow Republicans want to expand their fragile 77-73 majority. The Democrats, meanwhile, make no bones about wanting to recapture the majority they lost in 2002.

Playing in the mythical middle isn’t turning out to so well for the gentlemanly Mr. Straus; one rarely finds true or lasting allies there. The Republicans see opportunities to beat incumbent Democrats, and would like to have Mr. Straus’ help in that operation — he could be the House leader that brought them back from the brink of destruction. Democrats suspect there are opportunities to defeat Republicans, and desperately want Mr. Straus’ name and party affiliation to give them an air of respectability in the otherwise GOP-dominated state.

If Mr. Straus wants to keep the title of “Speaker,” he would do well to either get out of the way altogether, or pick a side and play for keeps. The former isn’t an option. Of the latter, there are two choices: cast his lot with the Democrats as their false-flag, and hope against hope they don’t toss him under the bus. Or he could stick with the party his mother, Joci Straus, helped found in Texas.

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Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael is the CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol 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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