Hughes leaves speaker race; Simpson enters
The race to oust the Texas House Speaker continues but with a new horse in the running.
After running a six-month race for speaker, Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, ended his candidacy and endorsed Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, who announced Monday he will challenge Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.
"My candidacy is about changing the culture in the House and getting away from intimidation and payback," he said. "We're here to do the people's business and the process shouldn't be guided by personality, party or seniority."
Simpson said Republicans and Democrats should be able to represent their districts without leadership "stifling" the process. He said Republicans have the majority now but that Democrats just want "a level playing field" and for the House rules to be enforced equally.
Simpson said "a number of my colleagues" have offered their support and are looking forward to sharing a vision of fair and open government with every member of the Legislature.
A speaker candidate needs a simple majority, 76 votes from the 150-member chamber. The speaker vote is one of the first actions to be taken by House members once the session begins on Jan. 8.
There will be 95 Republicans and 55 Democrats when the session begins.
The House speaker assigns committee chairmen and can effectively control which bills make it to the chamber floor.
Erin Daly, Straus' spokeswoman, said the speaker enjoys support from a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the House, and rather than campaigning for the position, he is focused on leading the House as he prepares for session.
Straus ousted Speaker Tom Craddick in 2009 with the help of 12 Republicans and 64 Democrats. It was the beginning of Straus' second term in the House.
JoAnn Fleming, Grassroots America - We the People executive director and chairman of the TEA Party Advisory Caucus Committee, said members may not agree with Simpson's personal politics, but he is known for his "stable temperament" and respect for other members.
Mrs. Fleming said Simpson's Tea Party credentials may not appeal to Democrats, but Simpson's reputation is as "a man of his word" and that gives him a good chance to win.
"Simpson doesn't want the people's business bottled up," she said. "I think he wants vigorous public debate and an up-or-down vote by the House and that would be refreshing."
Harvey Kronberg, political analyst and publisher of the Quorum Report, said Simpson's Tea Party ties and conservative leanings will not endear him to Democrats. Simpson also is too much of a "political unknown" to gain sufficient support from members.
It will be Simpson's second session. Straus was a sophomore also when he succeeded Craddick, Kronberg said, but Straus was part of the George W. Bush administration and had built political and personal relationships in Austin.
Kronberg said there also is less tumult in the House as there was before the coup ended Craddick's speakership.
"I know there will be a handful of 'no' votes among Democrats (regarding Straus) but I don't see any strong opposition there," he said. "It's not a truly unhappy House."
There is credible bi-partisan discontent in the House, Hughes said.
Hughes said he is putting his full support of a months-long campaign among members and Austin insiders behind Simpson because he believes Simpson's "libertarian" leanings appeal to Democrats and Republicans. He said no members question Simpson's motives.
"I think members know (Simpson) would keep his word and be fair and that is all anyone is asking for," he said. "All I am saying is that it will be an interesting first day."