by JENNIFER BIUNDO
Hays County’s freshly sworn in representative in the Texas House, Jason Isaac, started out the first day of his political life stuck between a rock and a hard place, and chose to abstain in his first controversial vote.
Isaac beat out four-term incumbent Democrat Patrick Rose in a hotly contested battle this November, part of a tidal wave of Republican victories that gave the GOP a supermajority in the Texas House of Representatives. After the election, some constituents of that new bloc argued that the conservative landslide at the polls called for equally conservative leadership in the Texas House, and called for the ouster of moderate Republican Joe Straus as Speaker of the House.
In December, the leaders of the Hays County Republican Party unanimously passed a resolution urging Isaac to “refrain from voting for Representative Joe Straus for the position of Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives under any circumstances,” even if “Isaac’s negative vote would be the only negative vote for Representative Straus.” Many local Republicans remain irate at Straus because his only official appearance in Hays County was to attend a fundraiser for Isaac’s Democrat opponent, Patrick Rose.
Initially, Isaac refused to publicly pledge his support for Straus’s opponents, Ken Paxton and Warren Chisum, saying he needed more time to consider the issue. Later, he issued a statement saying he supported a GOP caucus to discuss and choose a speaker.
At Monday’s caucus, 70 of the 100 Republican lawmakers present pledged support for Straus, easily giving him the support he needed to retain the speaker’s seat. Isaac told reporters he didn’t pledge for Straus in Monday’s straw poll, but the results still put him in a bind: He could help the GOP present a unified front by supporting the candidate picked by the party at large, but risk alienating his Hays County GOP base. Or, he could vote for the candidate who was clearly about to lose the race, potentially putting him at a logistical disadvantage by getting off on a bad foot with the leader of the House.
In the end, he didn’t vote at all. At the official vote Tuesday, 15 GOP members voted against Straus, while two, including Isaac, abstained by voting “present.”Email | Print