After the conclusion of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s forum in Austin today, I caught up with state Rep. Scott Turner for a few minutes. Turner subbed in for the absent Mike Ditka to deliver the keynote speech on Wednesday, and delivered a speech that generated a lot of buzz for the Republican. That’s no small feat, considering that some of the other speakers this week include Sen. Ted Cruz, former Sen. Phil Gramm, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Sen. and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and state Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Friday morning, Turner announced that he is running to replace state Rep. Joe Straus as Speaker of the Texas House.
Turner, who represents Frisco and Rockwall, made no hint of his intention to run either during his speech or during interviews leading up to the announcement.
“It’s been a good week,” Turner told me at the start of our brief conversation this afternoon. “I had the opportunity to deliver the keynote address at the TPPF. TPPF does such a great job, and they asked me to come and so I’m very humbled by that, to share part of my life story and to be an encouragment to the people here.
“Yes, I did file today to run for Speaker of the House for the 84th legislative session,” he continued. “And I’ll say very simply, I have great respect and the current Speaker and his position, and his family. But it’s a new season in Texas, and I’m looking forward to serving the members and helping the members serve the constituents and set forth a fresh vision for the state of Texas. So it’s exciting times. A lot of work to be done but we’re looking forward to it.”
During his speech Wednesday, Turner talked about how he prepared 13 years as a football player in school and college, for just four seconds that he had to impress NFL scouts. He ran a 4.2 40 yard dash that day, and was on his way to pro football. I asked him what that story might mean to his run for Speaker.
“I tell that story because it’s real, and because people can relate to struggle,” he said. “People can relate to having to persevere and having to overcome in order to achieve their dreams or their goals. I like to tell that because a lot of times, people look at professional athletes or celebrities and what have you, and they see the harvest, they see the end, but they don’t see the seed that’s been sown. So by telling that story, I want to invite people in to see ‘Hey, these were the struggles along the way.'”
For Turner, those struggles included growing up poor in Richardson, TX, with a father who worked two jobs including janitor and running a bread route for Mrs. Bairds. An undersized football player, he started off as a running back and spent three years on the bench at the University of Illinois before converting to defensive back and then making it to the NFL despite never getting a chance to be scouted at the NFL combine.
“I had many opportunities to give up, many opportunities to throw in the towel, many opportunities to be complacent, many opportunities to settle for the status quo and maybe do something else, but I stayed the course.” During his Wednesday speech, he described one of his top motivators: “I told my momma ‘I’m going to play in the NFL and take care of you.'” He couldn’t go back on his word, not matter what.
“I had great faith in the Lord, and worked very hard and had great people around me, to encourage me. So that’s why I tell that story, so that people will never give up.”
On how that 13 years preparation for 4 seconds of opportunity might impact the race for Speaker: “I’ve had that kind of determination my whole life, for the race for Speaker, and beyond.”
Turner has yet to lay out his legislative agenda, but can be expected to position himself to Straus’ right in the race for what is one of Texas’ most powerful offices.
“Stay tuned,” he said.