Texas Monthly Talks with Joe Straus

Program: Texas Monthly Talks
Time: 7 p.m.
Date: Thursday, Jan. 22
Also airs: Sunday, Jan. 25, at 12:30 p.m.

We all said it couldn’t be done — and by we, I mean the unwashed, unapologetic know-it-alls who make up the Capitol community: the collection of ink-stained wretches, amateur pundits, professional kibbitzers, and other self-anointed insiders who profess to understand the various moves on the chess board well before they occur. Well, my friends, what we have here is a new king, and the conventional wisdom has been checkmated. On January 13, the opening day of the 81st session, two-term Republican state representative Joe Straus of San Antonio emerged from near-obscurity to become  the 75th Speaker of the Texas House. In doing so, he toppled the man who everyone said — was certain — would continue in that leadership post for as long as he desired: Tom Craddick of Midland, an immensely powerful, relentlessly partisan, impressively strategic and tactical pol whose eternal reign was assured, even many Democrats admitted, by legendary survival instincts. Feared more than loved, Craddick ruled his roost these last three sessions in ways that both enhanced and diminished his standing, along with that of his party, which saw its majority dwindle to only one seat following last November’s elections. His opponents — the so-called ABCS, for Anybody but Craddick — tried and failed to oust him in 2007, and they might have missed their change again if not for the remarkably synchronized efforts of elevent Republican insurgents, who improbably settled on 49-year-old Straus as their standard-bearer, and the overwhelming majority of Democrats, who got in line behind him. Who is Straus? What most people know is that he hails from a storied clan with deep ties to the business wing of the Republican party, that he himself is thought to be an ideological moderate, that he’s less opposed to abortion and more supportive of gambling — a family business interest — than most of his conservative brethren, and that he’s a consensus-builder and with a genial disposition that stands as a stark comparison to Craddick’s grim affect. More we’re sure to learn in the weeks and months ahead.
A conversation with the man of the hour, Joe Straus, on this edition of Texas Monthly Talks.

— Evan Smith, host of Texas Monthly Talks