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With Straus’ Departure Looming, Texas House Republicans Want More Control Over Next Speaker Vote

Martin Do Nascimento/KUT

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus stunned colleagues and political observers alike when he announced that he would not seek re-election to his place in the Texas House of Representatives a few weeks ago. The news also meant that Straus would not be returning to his position as Speaker. In light of his upcoming departure, Texas House Republicans are seeking to have a greater influence over the choice of his replacement.

Texas Tribune Political Reporter Patrick Svitek says that on Friday, the House Republican Caucus agreed to make changes to their process for selecting a speaker candidate.

Svitek says that prior to the next vote for House Speaker, in 2019, the caucus will make an informal decision on a single candidate. Currently, Republicans hold 95 of the House’s 150 seats. When all members of the House later meet to vote on the next speaker, House Republicans will have already decided on one candidate, granting them more influence over the speaker choice.

Svitek says that in the past, all 150 Texas House members would meet on the first day of every legislative session, which takes place every other year, to choose a speaker as one full body, often with multiple candidates from the party in power seeking the office. He says that if the Republican caucus chooses a single candidate before the full House votes for speaker, Republicans will have an increased influence on that vote.

“It basically bypasses the Democrats in picking a speaker,” Svitek says.

Although the Republican caucus’ decision would be an informal one, Svitek says the move paves the way for a speaker that is potentially more conservative than Joe Straus, known for his more moderate views within the Republican Party.

“I think that is going to be the biggest potential ideological change,” Svitek says. “Two candidates are already (up for election), State Reps. Phil King of Weatherford and John Zerwas of Richmond, and at least several others are expected to get in in the coming months. But nothing is certain yet.”

Written by Rachel Zein.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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