Why the speaker's race needs a dose of realism

Photo by Bob Daemmrich

Ronald Reagan, one of the most quoted conservatives of our time, popularized what’s known in the GOP as the 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

Ironically, Reagan is also one of the most quoted conservatives when other conservatives choose to publicly criticize fellow Republicans for not falling in lock step with conservative ideology.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when a fellow Tarrant County state representative recently came under fire for speaking the truth in front of a group of people who helped elect him.

Asked by his local Tea Party group whom he would support for speaker in the upcoming legislative session, Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, said out loud what everyone in the Legislature already knows: There is no race for speaker.

Not the answer the group expected, or wanted, to hear.

The hateful retaliation against Capriglione has been swift and unyielding. I’ve been appalled by the efforts to publicly destroy the character of someone who is guilty only of speaking the truth. And the truth is that over 70 House Republicans have already publicly announced their support for incumbent Speaker Joe Straus. By my count, Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco — who has vowed a public floor vote in his challenge to Straus — has the support of about a dozen current members and a handful of incoming freshmen.

We’ll be 98 Republican members strong in the House next session. Texas is a diverse state, and every member represents a unique district, so there will certainly be differences of opinion. But we can differ respectfully while working to uphold conservative principles, and that will require unifying our party.

To do so, we must stop the public and personal smear campaigns and conduct a vote for speaker as laid out by the state GOP platform.

House Republicans should “convene in caucus to determine, by secret ballot, their candidate for Speaker of the House,” reads the platform, which was adopted earlier this year at the state GOP convention. Rules should be “instituted … so that members may vote without risk of retribution by the prevailing party.”

Convention delegates from across the state saw the potential damage of publicly fracturing the party, so the platform calls for House Republicans “to vote as a unified body for their selected speaker candidate.”

Because I was entrusted with representing the citizens of House District 97, and because I will continue to do everything in my power to see that their values are upheld and their rights are protected, I will support Straus when our caucus convenes in January and brings the issue to a vote. I’m hopeful that a resolution will be reached in caucus, but should the vote be taken to the House floor, I’ll stand with my fellow Republicans and vote to re-elect Straus. 

If I thought that supporting Turner would lead to the passage of more conservative legislation, I would gladly back him. But that’s not that case.

As I’ve told my constituents, if you’re so inclined to spend your time, effort and money campaigning for Turner to be the next speaker, that’s your right. But after the election, I hope you direct that same amount of time, effort and energy into participating in the legislative process. Work with your representative and conservative delegation to help introduce and pass conservative legislation. The challenge lies not in crafting the next 140-character criticism of your fellow Republican, but in actively participating in the process and understanding how newly proposed laws will impact Texas.

Rather than campaign against your fellow conservatives who have chosen to publicly endorse someone other than your preferred candidate, let us commit to pushing for a more unified Republican Party in the state of Texas.

As Reagan said: “Within our tent, there will be many arguments and divisions over approach and method and even those we choose to implement our philosophy. Seldom, if ever, will we raise a cheer signifying unanimous approval of the decisions reached. But if our philosophy is to prevail, we must at least pledge unified support of the ultimate decision. Unity does not require unanimity of thought.”

Craig Goldman

State representative, R-Fort Worth