Texas House Speaker Elections – January 11th 2011

The arguably most powerful person in the Texas government, the speaker of the Texas House, will be elected on January 11th. This election is of particular interest due to the newly elected Republican House Representatives that have seemingly renewed and further solidified Texas’s conservative leaning propensities; however, the likely winner may be a more moderate favorite of the Democrats.

 The incumbent, Joe Straus, seemed to start off with a definite re-election claiming to have received “pledge cards” from 130 representatives, but many are saying his previous election was due to a larger number of Democrats being in office as he and 10 other Republicans joined with Democrats to oust Republican Speaker Tom Craddick in 2009. After the recent elections 23 new, hopefully more conservative, republicans will be replacing many more moderate to liberal Democrats, it’s clear that Joe’s moderate views may no longer represents the overall makeup of the house, and thus he should no longer be the speaker.

In Collin County, and many of the surrounding counties, Ken Paxton is making some great headway, and gaining support while being touted as very conservative. Still he may have a lot of work to get done over the next 10 days if he hopes to win the election. He defiantly appears to be a favorite among the Tea Party groups, and many of them will be in Austin on the 11th to rally for a new, more conservative house speaker.

The final candidate, longtime Rep. Warren Chisum, has not gotten as much publicity in the Dallas from what I’ve seen, but he still may prove to be important to the overall race unless he’s finally convinced to step aside. He’s not likely to win, but he may end up being seen as a spoiler to Ken Paxton’s bid by splitting the conservative vote. Interestingly enough, Chisum entered the House in 1989 as a Democrat, and may not be as conservative as he may like to make himself out to be; despite having led efforts against things like gay marriage, and representing the “Old Guard” among Republicans.
Regardless of who wins, Texas is facing a $20 billion-plus budget shortfall in January, so the Texas House Speaker will have a tough job ahead of them. “It’s very important that we pass a balanced budget without raising taxes, and I think I bring some experience to the table that’s lacking right now in the leadership role,” Chisum said. Still Straus may be more fiscally conservative then Chisum considering, according to docstoc.com, Chisum increased the Texas budget by 17.9% in 2007, compared to Straus who decreased it by 1.3% in 2009.
As for Ken Paxton, he received a 100% rating from Empower Texans; in contrast to the committee chairmen Straus appointed had an average rating on the Fiscal Index of 54%. Ken also got a 97% rating from the Young Conservatives of Texas and an A+ from the NRA. Paxton has also sponsored legislation to create stronger spending limits, and was the lead author on transparency legislation in 2007.

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