TEXAS - Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus announced Wednesday he will not run for reelection.
In a Facebook post, he said, "In every legislative session, I've tried to bring real solutions to real challenges."
"For example, we’ve made significant gains in K-12 and higher education, water, transportation, and mental health care. But just as important as what we’ve done is the way in which we’ve done it. Even as politics has become more tribal and divisive, I’ve led by bringing people together and working across party lines."
Less than an hour later, Straus held a news conference to answer questions about his announcement.
"A confident leader knows when it's time to give it back," Straus said. "And I feel really good about the last year or so when I've been able to speak for myself about issues I care about and not necessarily every member of the legislature's priority. And the reception I've gotten since I've been more outspoken has been really strong and really positive. And so I want to do more of that, find other ways to serve the state."
Straus said he feels the House is in good standing which is all the more reason why now is the prime time for him to exit. He added his "unconventional" departure is happening on his terms, without being forced.
"I'm proud of our record here. But there comes a time when someone ought to come to the conclusion that that's enough in one place and five terms is a long time," said Straus. "I'm really proud that I'm able to walk out of this job, the first time in decades that the Speaker's been able to leave this office, you know, on his own terms. And so I feel good about that."
San Antonio native Joe Straus was elected to the House of Representatives in 2005. His colleagues voted him Speaker in 2009 and he's served in that role since then.
Straus prides himself on setting a respectful tone and being a leader who works across party lines. That became more challenging during the last session and special session as the Republican party was spilt on divisive issues,including school finance, education savings accounts, property taxes and the bathroom bill.
Straus was especially vocal in his opposition to the bathroom bill and the harm he believed it would do to the Texas economy. While that created a rift among some republicans, including the Lieutenant Governor, Straus says people across the state support him. And that support could lead to a future run for office.
"I'm not one to close doors," said Straus. "And I have to tell you as I've traveled the state, speaking out on issues that I think are important to our economy and important to most people, not just Republicans but most Texans who want to see our economy and our opportunities grow and...do things that attract jobs and not chase them away, the response I'm getting is very, very strong. And I've had people suggest, on a daily basis, that I run for another office, I don't have plans to do that but I will be looking forward to speaking out more and more about issues that I think are important to most people. What that leads to, we will have to see. But I think there is a hunger for a republican voice out there that stresses issues that maybe haven't gotten enough attention around the Capitol the last few years."
Straus has 14 months left in his term and has given the Representatives interim charges or issues to study before the next session. He said he plans to continue to focus on those things and to help "responsible republicans" get elected in the primaries.
"It's a myth that you have to be crazy to win a republican primary for the Texas House. People know House members. We come from local communities where people really know us. We are neighbors. Our constituents are our neighbors."
Straus said he won't endorse a Representative for Speaker because he feels that's inappropriate. Adding the selection of Speaker of the House is "a decision for house members."
When it comes to his future plans, Straus said he's not quite sure what he wants to do.
"When you're in this office and you do it responsibly, you pay attention to the other members. You pay attention to the institution that you represent that you've been given this authority to lead. And so I've never really had the time to think about what else I would do," Straus said.
"I think of myself as a main voice for constructive issues that people really want to see us make progress on in Texas from pre-kindergarten through twelfth in public education and higher education. We've done a lot of good things in water policy, funding the water plan for the first time after decades of neglect. Transportation we've done some good things, so those types of issues, bread and butter issues that are important to people, are what I want to continue to be talking about. Some of the other ideas that I don't think are the best, if I played a role in keeping them from happening, some people appreciate that. But that's not really what I come here for. I come here to try to work on things that we can do, that are good for Texas and that are responsible and that will help this state grow in ways that I believe it ought to."
He added he doubts he will be on the ballot in 2018, but given his past record, said he isn't ruling anything out, including a run for governor.
"Remember back to 2009, it wasn't really my ambition to run for Speaker. It was a pretty unorthodox situation in an unconventional way. I've tried to lead in unconventional ways in today's divided politics and I've taken a lot of errors for it because I try to bring people together. I do make no apology for working across party lines. I think we do our best work when we fo that. I think Washington could learn a real lesson from the Texas House over the last few sessions, when we are at our best," said Straus.
"What's in the future for me? I don't know but I do plan to be engaged, I plan to be an active voice and find other ways to serve my state."
"I don't have a plan today beyond helping other responsible republicans in 18," he added. "But today's an announcement of what I won't be continuing more than it is an announcement of what I'll be doing in the future. And I look forward to, I look forward to having the time to talk to the people who have been very supportive of me around the state, which i haven't done yet today, to see what they think I ought to do and what they're willing to do with me."
In his Facebook post, he said that with this decision, "I will now have a greater opportunity to express my own views and priorities."
He then went on to quote one of his heroes, President George H.W. Bush, by saying, "Any definition of a successful life must include serving others."
Read his full announcement here:
Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement following Straus' announcement:
"Joe Straus has served with distinction for both the people in his district and for the Texas House of Representatives,” Abbott said. “I thank Speaker Straus for his service and for his commitment to the State of Texas. Cecilia and I wish Joe and Julie all the best.”
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