Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus’ announcement that he won’t seek re-election to his House seat will trigger an open race for the speakership while defusing efforts to make Straus himself an issue in the GOP primaries – a tactic that hasn’t work especially well in recent primaries anyway. The speaker will serve out the rest of his term, but on the occasion of the Speaker’s announcement, we've rounded up results on the Speaker’s job approval ratings from the University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, as well as videos of the three interviews we’ve done with the Speaker during his term (recorded in 2011, 2015, and 2017).
In an impromptu press conference at the Capitol after announcing that he wasn't running for re-election, Speaker Straus quipped that it was sometimes humbling to note how low his name recognition was around the state. His name recognition did rise slowly over the course of his speakership, but the position of speaker, as we've noted before, isn't one that necessarily gains political effectiveness from its occupant having high name recognition. In Straus' case, his political opponents in the GOP repeatedly attempted to make him an issue in elections around the state, with little success – though as the trend graphic below illustrates, the last legislative session did see efforts to generate Tea Party discontent with Straus begin to pay off for the entities dedicated to ousting him. It's worth noting, though, that during the same time, the size of the Tea Party identifying group shrank to about 29 percent of Republicans.
(Note: you can click on the legend to toggle groups and responses on and off in the trend graphics.)
|Neither approve nor disapprove||28%||33%||27%|
Straus, the public and the internal politics of the legislature
The Texas political press jumped on the idea of there being a real contest to replace Straus as Speaker in 2015, though in the end only 19 members voted for Straus' challenger, State Rep. Scott Turner (who promptly retired following that session). Given all the thrashing about what seemed like not much of a race, we asked Texans how much attention they were paying to the race for Speaker in the February 2015 UT/Texas Tribune poll. Fifty-nine percent said they had head "not very much" or "nothing at all," and only 12 percent said "a lot."
|Not very much||31%|
|Nothing at all||28%|
|Not very much||30%||32%||32%|
|Nothing at all||31%||36%||21%|
In the same poll, 74 percent had no opinion of Straus.
|Neither favorable nor unfavorable||25%|
|Don't know/no opinion||49%|
Interviews with Speaker Straus
Below are three interviews with the Speaker conducted at UT-Austin during his tenure as speaker. For a library with many short excerpts from these interviews, see this search result page at the Texas Politics Project YouTube account.
From 2017 (The Speaker opted not to make any news in discussing his future plans):
From 2011 (The Speaker brought then Chair of Appropriations Jim Pitts with him, who you can see in many of the shots):