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|Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives|
January 13, 2009
|Preceded by||Tom Craddick|
|Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 121st district
|Preceded by||Elizabeth Ames Jones|
|Born||Joseph Richard Straus III
September 1, 1959
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
|Alma mater||Vanderbilt University|
Joseph Richard Straus, III, known as Joe Straus (born September 1, 1959), is the current Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. He represents District 121, which comprises northeastern Bexar County, including part of San Antonio, Texas, and several surrounding communities. Straus was elected to the Texas House in 2005. Straus was first elected Speaker on January 13, 2009. Straus is Texas' first Jewish Speaker.
Business and community experience
A lifelong San Antonian, Straus currently serves on the Board of Governors of the Cancer Therapy and Research Center as well as on the Texas Cord Blood Bank. Previously, he served on the board of directors of the San Antonio Zoological Society, the Texas Nature Conservancy, the Southwest School of Art and Craft, and the Winston School.
Described by Forbes magazine in 2014 as the "Harry Reid of Texas", Straus has previously served on the Management Committee of the Bexar County Republican Party, as a precinct chairman, and on numerous campaign committees for federal, state, and local candidates. He served in the administration of U.S. President George H. W. Bush from 1989 through 1991 as Deputy Director of Business Liaison at the U.S. Department of Commerce and earlier under President Ronald Reagan as Executive Assistant to the Commissioner of Customs. In 1986, he was U.S. Representative Lamar Smith's campaign manager in Smith's first race for Congress.
Election to Texas House
Challenge against Tom Craddick
After witnessing his fellow Republicans lose three House seats in the November 2008 elections, Straus decided to run against then Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland, the senior Republican in the Texas House. Shortly after New Year's Day, eleven House Republican members, including the late Edmund Kuempel of Seguin, Burt Solomons of North Carrollton, Jim Keffer of Eastland, and Jim Pitts of Waxahachie met in the Austin home of Representative Byron Cook of Corsicana (ten in person and one via webcam). Each wanted an alternative to Craddick. After four rounds of secret balloting, with state and local media hanging around outside in the neighbors' lawns, Straus emerged as their challenger to unseat the Speaker. Over the next several days, the group, dubbed by the media as the "Gang of 11", set out to garner the required minimum of 76 votes (of the 150 total members) to achieve their mission. After several days of phone calls, e-mails, pledge cards and signature gathering, Joe Straus announced on Sunday, January 4, 2009, that he had enough votes to win the job. By the following evening remaining opposition to Straus conceded. After securing his position as House Speaker, Straus proceeded to appoint Democrats to sixteen of the House's thirty-four chairmanship positions.
After three sessions of Tom Craddick, the House was ready for a change." Frank Corte, Jr., a San Antonio Republican who had been committed to retaining Craddick as Speaker, said that Straus "has a different leadership style, there's no doubt about it. He has an indirect way of handling things. He doesn't weigh in heavily at first." Straus' rabbi, Barry H. Block, said "If people underestimated Joe, they'll stop now."
An aide said that Straus "doesn't like to label himself on social issues. . . . He considers himself pro-life, just not a proselytizing one. . . . He sees the big picture -- jobs, economy, education." Another Republican, the departing Leo Berman from Tyler, had indicated an intention to run for Speaker but withdrew and endorsed Warren Chisum, a Republican from Pampa, who unsuccessfully challenged Straus for the Speaker's gavel.
Term as Speaker
Straus was first elected Speaker on January 13, 2009. He was reelected to a fourth two-year term as Speaker on January 13, 2015 in the first recorded vote for Speaker in the last 40 years.
In January 2013, the moderate Republican Straus faced intraparty conservative opposition for a third term as Speaker from Representative David Simpson of Longview. Simpson entered the race for Speaker in December 2012, after Straus's previous opponent, conservative Bryan Hughes of Mineola, withdrew from the contest after nearly six months of seeking commitments from colleagues. However, Simpson withdrew before the balloting for Speaker began, and Straus was reelected without opposition on January 8, 2013.
Straus was challenged again as Speaker by Representative Scott Turner from Frisco, Texas. It was the first recorded Speaker vote since 1976. The Wall Street Journal questioned the wisdom of reelecting Straus as Speaker due to his involvement in and unwillingness to resolve the admissions scandal at the University of Texas. Nearly a third of the State Republican Executive Committee members endorsed Turner, as well as numerous tea party organizations, grassroots volunteers and local activists. Republican county executive committees from around the state also endorsed Turner in the speakership election. Conservative television personality Glenn Beck recorded a ‘robo-call’ phone message in support of Turner's run for Speaker.
Despite the Tea Party campaign against him, Straus went on to win his 4th reelection as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives with 128 votes to 19 for Turner for the 2015 session. The strong support for Straus provided evidence that the Tea Party might not be as strongly supported across the state as reported prior to the Speaker vote, however further elections would be required to understand if their primary tactic is effective.
Admissions Scandal at University of Texas-Austin
Straus became ensnared in an admissions ‘clout’ scandal at the University of Texas at Austin in 2013. Publicly available documents revealed that Straus and two other members of the House sent more letters to the president of the University of Texas on behalf of applicants than anyone else whose correspondence was included in a recent inquiry into admissions favoritism.
The University of Texas System retained Kroll, Inc. to investigate admissions practices at the University of Texas-Austin. The investigation was expanded in December, 2014 by former UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.
Antisemitism controversy as Speaker
In 2010, e-mails circulated among members of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee calling for Straus to be replaced by a "Christian conservative" as Speaker, on the grounds that "we elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it." Straus's opponents for the Speakership, Ken Paxton and Warren Chisum, are Christians; both condemned the comments.
John Cook, author of some of the e-mails, said, "I want to make sure that a person I'm supporting is going to have my values. It's not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right. ... I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They're the people that do the best jobs over all." Cook denied allegations that he is antisemitic, saying that he had Jewish friends and that Jesus Christ, a Jew, is his favorite person.
Election of 2012
Straus was renominated to the Texas House in the Republican primary held on May 29, 2012. With 10,362 votes (62.9 percent), he defeated opponent Matt Beebe, who polled 6,108 ballots (37.1 percent). In the November 6 general election, Straus faced no Democrat opponent and defeated the Libertarian nominee, Arthur M. Thomas, IV, 50,530 (80.2 percent) to 12,444 (19.8 percent).
Election of 2014
Straus was again renominated to the Texas House in the Republican primary held on March 4, 2014. He received 9,224 votes (61.2 percent) to his challenger Matt Beebe's 5,842 (38.8 percent).
- "Daily Show correspondent John Oliver says Rep. Joe Straus is the first Jewish speaker in the Texas House". Austin American-Statesman (Austin, Texas: PolitiFact.com). February 12, 2011. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
An Austin American-Statesman news article from January 2009, just before House members elevated Straus to the speaker’s post, said he appeared poised to become "the first Jewish speaker of the Texas House since statehood."
- "Representative Joe Straus". Texas House of Representatives. 13 January 2009. Archived from the original on 22 August 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
- "Robert T. Garrett, Solomons says he won’t seek re-election to Texas House, November 28, 2011". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
- Lisa Sandberg, "The Most Popular Guy at the Capitol", San Antonio Magazine, June 2009, p. 54
- "Tim Eaton, "Simpson announces run for speaker of Texas House", December 10, 2012". Austin American Statesman. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
- "Legislature opens; Straus re-elected", Laredo Morning Times, January 9, 2013, p. 10A
- Batheja, Aman (November 25, 2014). "Last Contested Vote for Texas House Speaker Was in 1975". Texas Tribune (Austin, Texas). Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- Rapoport, Abby (December 3, 2010). "SREC Member: "I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office."". Texas Observer.
- Rapoport, Abby (November 17, 2010). "Has Anti-Semitism Entered the Texas Speaker's Race?". Texas Observer.
- "Republican primary election returns, May 29, 2012". enr.sos.state.tx.us. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
- "General election returns, November 6, 2012". elections.sos.state.tx.us. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
- "Republican primary election returns". team1.sos.state.tx.us. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
- Speaker of the House Joe Straus official Texas House of Representatives site
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
|Texas House of Representatives|
Elizabeth Ames Jones
|Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 121st district
|Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives