San Antonio Republican Joe Straus, the five-term speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, announced Wednesday morning that he won't be running for re-election next year, giving up his seat in the Legislature and his speaker's gavel. Straus' decision comes after a rancorous legislative session during which he was the key moderate voice against the conservative priorities of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
"I believe that in a representative democracy, those who serve in public office should do so for a time, not for a lifetime," Straus said in a Facebook post announcing his decision. "It’s been decades since someone has left the Speaker’s office on his own terms. But we have accomplished what I had hoped the House would accomplish when I first entered this office, and I am increasingly eager to contribute to our state in new and different ways."
The retirement echoes yesterday's public retirement speech by Jeff Flake, a Republican senator from Arizona, who lambasted Trump's style of governing without mentioning him by name.
During both the regular and special sessions of the Texas Legislature this year, Straus wielded his agenda-setting power in the Texas House to keep the "bathroom bill" and another key conservative proposal that would've limited local government's ability to increase property taxes from reaching to the Texas House floor for a vote. After the special session, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Straus out for the bathroom bill's failure.
"The speaker made it very clear to me personally that he opposed the privacy bill and said he would never allow it to be voted on," Abbott during a radio interview in August. "There is absolutely no evidence he will ever change his mind on this issue."
Straus said Wednesday that he will use his time away from the Texas House to implement his vision for Texas.
"I will now have a greater opportunity to express my own views and priorities," he said. "I will also continue to work for a Republican Party that tries to bring Texans together instead of us pulling us apart. Our party should be dynamic and forward-thinking, and it should appeal to our diverse population with an optimistic vision that embraces the future."
Texas' social conservatives exulted in Straus' retirement Wednesday.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"Victory! Main Texas opponent of protecting privacy in public bathrooms, showers and locker rooms, Joe Straus, bows out of office," Jonathan Saenz, head of the anti-LGBTQ rights advocacy group Texas Values, tweeted shortly after Straus' announcement.
The state's Democrats, on the other hand, lamented that "Trumpism" is taking over Texas politics.
"The Republican Party is dead. Compassionate conservatism is no more, and Trumpism has infected every corner of the Grand Ole Party," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said.
Had Straus been elected speaker a sixth time, he would've broken a Texas record. Instead, electing a new speaker will be among the Texas House's first duties when it returns for the 86th Legislature in 2019.