Session not yet over, tea partiers renew battle against Straus, pledge cards
The gavel hasn’t yet marked the close of arguably the most conservative session of the Texas Legislature in anyone’s memory — and already tea partiers have renewed their efforts to oust Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and reform the way state representatives pick their leader.
On Friday, May 20, Michael Openshaw, a leader of the North Texas Tea Party, called on tea partiers to contact their House members and demand that they refuse to sign “pledge cards” (traditionally binding loyalty agreements to a particular Speaker candidate) until after the 2012 elections. He wrote on the NTTP website:
“With the legislative session coming to a close, you can rest assured that Joe Straus (whose incompetent/willful leadership resulted in over 70% of the Conservative agenda failing to reach the floor, even with a super-majority) will be busy hunting Pledge cards. […] We need to demand that ANY officeholder or candidate we support or will vote for withhold signing ANY Pledge card until well AFTER the election, and to publicly commit to this. Refusing to do so will be taken as an affirmation that they have or intend to sign a pledge card before the electorate has had any say.”
On May 23, the Grassroots Texans Network began blasting emails to tea partiers to sign on to an open letter to House members saying, “We the undersigned write to express our opinion, in the strongest possible terms, that the “pledge card” system, whatever its merits may have been at one time, has long since outlived its usefulness and has become a recipe for corruption and abuse.”
“[W]e implore you to refrain from pledging your loyalty to the House leadership and to retain your independence to represent the people of Texas,” says the Grassroots letter, initially signed by 40 tea party leaders, and which had about 300 total signers as of Friday morning.
Before the start of the session, tea partiers, social conservatives and other right-wingers aggressively attacked Straus for not being conservative enough. The effort to dethrone Straus, who is Jewish, turned out to be one of the only defeats suffered by tea party forces, as the San Antonio Republican eventually prevailed with overwhelming support from the Texas House GOP Caucus — but not before Straus’ religion became a factor in the Speaker’s contest, which in turn became fodder for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.
On Tuesday, Women on the Wall released three versions of a new video featuring tea partiers and conservative activists calling for an end to the pledge card system, and attacking Straus’ leadership during the session, on topics including redistricting, and the Straus family’s interests in gambling.
Though people appearing in the video do not mention conservatives’ victories, such as voter photo identification or pre-abortion sonograms, Arlington Tea Party president Mel Moss asks, “Why did Straus and his appointed chairs wait until the end of the session to get serious about passing the budget?”
In the video, conservative blogger Donna Garner also attempts to make an issue of State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant), who is a lobbyist.
A spokesperson for Straus did not respond to a request for comment.