There was a major bombshell in the world of Texas politics on Wednesday and it all circles around San Antonian Joe Straus. The longest-serving speaker of the Texas house has decided to call it quits and will not seek re-election.
The decision could have far-reaching effects across Texas.
“I have no doubt that the support back home is strong and the support among the members is deep, but that just made me realize it’s the time. It’s the right time,” said Straus when addressing the media on Wednesday.
And just like that, a new and unknown chapter is about to begin in Texas politics. Speaker Straus has become the voice of moderate Republicans, not afraid to reach across political lines. He’s also known as a champion for the business community and became vocal against controversial legislation like the “bathroom bill.”
That's why some fellow Republicans are not the only ones upset about Straus’s decision to call it quits.
“He was the voice of reason out there,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who added that Straus’s departure is bad for local government. “It doesn’t mean anything good. It means potentially a lot of bad. The bathroom bill that he stopped, spending caps, loading us up with more responsibilities that we can’t afford."
Many are left wondering if Straus will stay in Texas politics but in a state-wide office. In a Facebook post announcing his decision, Straus said, in part:
“I plan to be a voice for Texans who want a more constructive and unifying approach to our challenges, from the White House on down.”
When speaking with reporters on Wednesday about his future, Straus also said, “I’m not one to close doors.”
Texas Tribune executive editor Ross Ramsey believes that there’s a chance this could just be the beginning of something new.
“You know when political reporters ask politicians, 'What are you going to do next?' They're listening for the word 'never' or 'no.' And we didn't hear a never or no,” Ramsey noted.
Ramsey also said that the current speculation on Straus’s political future is “through the roof,” with people thinking he might be planning a future run for governor or even lieutenant governor. Of course, no one knows if and when that decision will be made.
Straus will continue to serve the rest of his term, which ends just before 2019. He was first elected to the House in 2005 and became speaker in 2009.