For a year, Scott Turner had been campaigning for House Speaker. He’d been campaigning in tiny tea party meeting rooms across the state and he had campaigned at the state Republican convention, where a vast trove of Turner-branded trinkets were distributed to the faithful. He was the champion of the considerable and monied machinery that had been trying to undo House Speaker Joe Straus, who’s carefully maintained a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans since he was elected to the position by his fellow representatives six years ago.
Turner had the backing of the tea party faithful, who he’d told he would help protect from a menacing and darkening world. He had the backing of the Christian right, whose leadership has never been altogether too comfortable with the fact that Straus is Jewish. He even had the backing of a number of senators, who spoke strongly in his favor at a rally yesterday. But he didn’t have the support of the only people who mattered in the end—the members of the House. And so he got trampled today, 127 to 19.
First, though, came a series of not-too-titillating speeches—four Straus allies, including Democrat Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville), emphasized his record and policy credentials, while four Turner allies talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, and invoked Shakespeare and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (To be fair, the last three belonged to Fort Worth’s Matt Krause.)
It was unsurprising to anyone who’d been paying attention to the Lege, but it was still a margin Straus could feel good about. The House—while by no means a liberal body, or even that moderate—will serve as a check on the Senate’s most conservative instincts this year.
Amy Zimmerman, a Turner supporter from Grayson County who traveled down with the McKinney Tea Party, found herself wandering around the Capitol’s library after the vote in her Scott Turner t-shirt. She said the result wasn’t a surprise, but she still seemed a little emotional.
“We’re having an issue with what the people want, and what the legislators want,” she said, adding that conservatives like her, who have just emerged from their most successful election cycle in the state’s history, are “frustrated and at the breaking point.”
The representatives were scared, and they wouldn’t do what was right. Everyone knew what was right, she said. What had Straus done to frustrate people like her so much? He’d held up bills “on gun rights and Sharia law.” Straus’ “cronies” had killed them. Corruption carried the day whenever Devil Joe held the gavel.
Even tea party reps like Giovanni Capriglione (R-South Lake) had let them down. Maybe, some tea partiers have said, they need to be replaced. So tomorrow—with Tim Dunn’s money—they’d start anew. Straus’ allies were less solemn. When it came time to vote, Jason Embry, the speaker’s spokesman, tweeted: “Remember this moment.”