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Texas House Speaker Joe Straus Won't Run For Re-Election

Martin do Nascimento
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus calls the Texas House to order in July 2017.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus says he will not run for re-election in 2018.

In an announcement, Straus said he will “continue to work for a Republican Party that tries to bring Texans together instead of pulling us apart." 

Straus was first elected speaker of the House in 2009. The San Antonio Republican served five terms, ousting former Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland.

During this year's regular and special sessions Straus served as a roadblock in the lower house of the Texas Legislature – refusing to give hearings to controversial measures, like the so-called bathroom bill, which failed in the House. That resistance rankled his fellow Republicans – namely, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who championed the bill in the Senate, and Gov. Greg Abbott.

Speaking to reporters this morning, Straus touted legislative efforts to bolster public education funding and water conservation during his tenure, but said he didn't regret his opposition to the bathroom bill.

"Some of the other ideas that I didn’t think were the best – you know, if I played a role in keeping them from happening – some people appreciate that," he said. 

Straus has argued the bill would jeopardize Texas’ ability to attract business, citing similar legislative efforts in North Carolina. In an interview with KUT in August, he admitted that he used his authority to hamstring the bill and likened the effort of passing a bathroom bill to walking “head first into a cactus.”

"I use the office and the authority that the members have given to me on occasions where I think it's necessary,” Straus told KUT in August. “This bathroom bill is a perfect example of that."

Straus didn't offer specific details about his plans after his speakership ends, but said he "highly" doubts he'll appear on a ballot in 2018. He said he wouldn't rule out a run for governor in the future, though. 

As for 2018, Straus said he plans on supporting "responsible Republicans" running for office.

"I think there is a hunger for a Republican voice out there that stresses issues that maybe haven’t gotten enough attention around the Capitol the last few years," he said. 

While Straus characterized his leadership style last session as bipartisan, fellow House Republicans accused him of “blocking a conservative agenda,” so much so that Rep. Phil King of Weatherford  filed in September to challenge Straus for the speakership.

At Wednesday's press conference, Straus called that cadre of lawmakers "self-limited" and said they weren't the kind of Republicans he hoped to support in 2018.

In a statement, Abbott thanked Straus for his five-term tenure as speaker.

"Joe Straus has served with distinction for both the people in his district and for the Texas House of Representatives," he said.

Echoing Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick thanked Straus for his service, adding that their differences were often misrepresented.

"Any man who enters the arena deserves respect," Patrick said. "The media often tried to portray our differences as personal when they were actually just a markedly different approach to governance and political ideology." 

Straus said Wednesday that he'll miss the office, but suggested he didn't want to run for re-election just to run for re-election, adding that the office could be "inhibiting." 

"I'll be free to speak my mind more as we go forward," he said. "And that appeals to me quite a bit."

Correction: This story initially stated Rep. Phil King is a member of the House Freedom Caucus. 

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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