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Texas Speaker's Race: the New Majority's First Test

Another group that's come out firing in Straus' direction is Young Conservatives of Texas. That influential group, which counts the current Republican Party of Texas' chairman as its founder, has been hammering Straus over the committee chairmen he appointed during the 2009 session. The YCT also endorsed Paxton, citing the very high conservative legislative rating the group gave him after that 2009 session. If Straus is elected, the chairmanship issue isn't likely to go away: Straus is touting the support of 49 Democrats along with 79 of the 98 Republicans (one passed away after the election and has yet to be replaced), and has already said he will appoint some Democrats to committee chairmanships. If those numbers hold up, and at least the Democratic ones will since their bylaws require them to caucus and then vote for a single candidate in bloc, Straus has enough support to win if the vote were held today.

But the vote isn't being held today, and won't be held until the first day of the next session, which is in January. That's plenty of time to create fissures and realignments among the Republican state representatives and reps-elect. Anyone connected to Texas GOP politics at all has gotten either or both sides to request their support in Facebook group pages.  There's "Oust Joe Straus" and "No to Joe Straus" on one side, and "Conservatives for Joe Straus" and his actual Facebook page on the other, and big name social media consultants like the Vincent Harris Group are combatants in the battle. Inboxes are filling up with press releases from both sides, as endorsements for the candidates line up, or drop off and change sides. It really has become a campaign after the campaign, complete with outside groups and endorsers circulating emails that have backfired on their preferred candidates -- the bane of communications pros and media reps no matter whose side you're on.

All of this means that at this point no one really knows who is going to be the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. The betting money is probably with Straus, since he already has the Democratic caucus' votes and only needs about a fourth of the GOP side, and if both Paxton and Chissum stay in the race, they're likely to split the conservative vote. But the incoming class is more conservative than its predecessor. The thought of a GOP caucus that's redder than red letting the Democrats, who were beaten like a cheap pawn shop drum in the last election, elect its leader is anathema to many of the newly elected and the voters who propelled them to victory.

Update: It turns out that AFP and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility haven't endorsed anyone in the speaker's race, though both are vocally leading what might be termed the "Texas needs a conservative speaker" side of the argument.  Dick Armey's group FreedomWorks did endorse Paxton, however, as has Mike Huckabee.