AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Tea party-backed first-term state Rep. Scott Turner says he wants to unseat fellow Republican Joe Straus as speaker of the Texas House, The Austin American Statesman reported Saturday.
It's the latest in a string of challenges Straus has faced from the right since assuming the post in 2009, none of which ultimately proved serious. But Turner's announcement is unusual in that it comes so early — the Texas Legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until January 2015.
Turner is a former professional football player from Frisco. The Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/1dlWyZt ) he said via Twitter on Friday: "I am excited to announce I have just filed to run for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives for the 84th Legislative Session. God bless Texas!"
The House chooses a speaker at the beginning of its session. Straus, who oversees the flow of Legislation in the GOP-controlled House, has been criticized by some conservatives for working too closely with Democrats.
Asked for a response, Straus spokesman Jason Embry didn't mention Turner by name.
"Speaker Straus is focused on serving his constituents and supporting his colleagues as they build on the successes of the 2013 legislative session," he said in a statement "including a balanced budget, tax relief, education reform and historic action to address our water crisis."
In recent years, several tea party Republicans have challenged Straus, of San Antonio. In 2010, then-state Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, announced after the November elections that he intended to take on Straus, only to eventually back out of the race.
Then, in May 2012, Mineola Republican Rep. Bryan Hughes energized grass-roots groups by announcing he would vie for the speakership when the Legislature reconvened the following January. But Hughes also abandoned his bid, and another tea party favorite, Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, also failed to formally challenge Straus despite promises to seek the speakership in January 2013.
It's unclear whether Turner will garner enough support to oust Straus.
Turner was a defensive back and spent nine seasons in the NFL beginning in 1995. He played for the Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. During the 2013 session, he donned his Redskins helmet briefly on the House floor.
"It's not about Speaker Straus, and I don't have anything negative to say about Speaker Straus at all," Turner told the Statesman. "It's a new season in Texas, and I'm excited to be a part of it."
Turner, now a Dallas-area small businessman and motivational speaker, came to the Legislature in January, part of a large crop of new, tea party-supported state lawmakers. They often clashed with Straus, who angered some conservative Republicans by promoting legislation to improve water and highway infrastructure statewide.
Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com