11/09/17

The Next Speaker

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ recent announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2018 naturally brings up questions for both the political insider and the casual observer.

Who will be the next Speaker of the Texas House? Will one of Straus’ close allies take the reins? What sort of say will Democrats have? How will the absence of a sitting Speaker influence the 2018 elections?

These kinds of questions swirl around the Texas political scene, and for good reason, as the next Speaker will wield significant power and influence.

For possible answers, there’s no shortage of pundits and political commentators making predictions. Yet despite their credentials, no one can predict the future. That’s why we help citizens look at what’s truly driving politics: the money.

During his tenure as Speaker, Straus received an incredible amount of campaign cash from some of the state’s most prolific  political donors. Below is a list of some of these big-name, heavy hitters and their contributions.

Donations to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus since 2010
James D. Pitcock, Jr. $575,000
Charles Butt $245,000
John & Anne Weisman $220,000
Peter & Julianna Holt $205,000
Curtis W. Mewbourne $200,834.91
Woody L. Hunt $174,152.10
John L. Nau, III $170,492.87
Trevor Rees-Jones $153,506.64
Total $1,943,986.52

These men and women have invested heavily in Straus and his team over the years. Some did so because they believed in Straus’ brand of politics, while others simply wanted access to one of the most powerful politicians in the state. Regardless of their reason(s), it’s hard to believe these power players will simply walk away from the game because the horse they backed decided to ride off into the sunset.

Rather, the most likely scenario is that these donors – and the millions of dollars at their disposal – are already working behind the scenes to back a new man or woman to take up the Speaker’s gavel. Texans would be wise to watch which candidates and PACs these mega-donors, and others like them, are investing in. As we move closer to the 2018 elections, and the subsequent 2019 Legislative Session, each campaign finance report will serve as a window into what these donors want to see happen.

As with any prediction in politics, nothing is certain. But closely watching where the largest donors in the state, particularly those who have a track record of being heavily invested in the leadership of the Texas House, invest their resources, will be a good indicator of where Texas could be headed.

 

Our Capitol Crowd series outlines and highlights the politicians, advocacy groups, and donors that have the biggest impact in the Austin bubble.

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