After Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced somewhat surprisingly this week that he would not seek re-election, state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, announced Thursday he would consider a run for the position in 2019.
“I have had a number of colleagues call me and talk to me about serving as the next speaker. I would be honored to do it,” Clardy said. “I would consider it. I have a lot of respect for the position and we need that filled by a person who has a real vision for what the future of Texas should be.”
Straus, one of the most powerful moderate Republicans in the state Capitol, announced he would not seek re-election in 2018, a decision that came as a bit of a surprise considering he told colleagues at the end of the 85th Legislature he planned to seek the post again.
“At that time he indicated he intended to return. I’m very proud of the decision that he made and why he made it. He did it for all the right reasons,” Clardy said, adding he believed Straus had opted to retire from the Legislature for personal reasons rather than political pressure.
Clardy said he could not elaborate on Straus’ decision.
“I think the test of time and history will judge his tenure as speaker extraordinarily well,” Clardy said of Straus’ accomplishments.
Straus told the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday that it was “the right time” for him to step down after serving a record five terms as Texas House speaker.
“I know it is for my family,” the San Antonio Republican said.
Straus had been at odds with the more conservative Republicans bloc including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
During a special session this summer, Straus blocked discussion on Patrick’s key legislation — a bill that would have regulated where transgender people can use the restroom. After his announcement Wednesday, Straus drew criticism from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
“I wish Joe the best in his next chapter, but I also very much hope that the next speaker in the House is a strong conservative leader who will defend the principals and values of Texans,” Cruz said Thursday on The Chad Hasty Show.
Yet in the last legislative session, Straus won the speakership with a unanimous vote.
“He ended on a positive note with the 85th Legislature and the special session,” Clardy said. “I think he also looked at it and knew if he had stayed in there the attacks would continue. He’s been under attack since the first moment he became speaker.”
Clardy has not announced candidacy for speaker nor has he filed paperwork to seek the office. State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, was already running for speaker before Wednesday’s news, but within hours, several more threw their hats in the ring. State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, a Straus ally, announced he had filed paperwork to run. State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, said he was exploring a campaign soon after that.
Clardy must win re-election in 2018 before he can seek the position. Qualifying for the House election begins in November.
Regardless of who ultimately wins the race for speaker in 2019, Clardy said the House is poised to have strong leadership.
“I’ll be thinking about that and I’m sure we’ll be having more conversations,” Clardy said. “Hypothetically if that were to come about I think I have the skill set and ability to be a good speaker but I also know that I serve with a large number of very capable confident and qualified people. We will have a very good strong leader as our next speaker, and who knows, maybe it’s me.”
Clardy first won election in District 11 in 2013, beating Chuck Hopson, strong ally of Straus.
“When I was elected, I really had no reason to like Speaker Straus. I successfully ran against one of his chairmen. We had a good spirited, fair, honorable campaign,” Clardy said. “In that race, the speaker, understandably, supported his chairman. He personally and financial interacted to help Chuck run a campaign against me.”
But when Clardy got to Austin, he decided to reserve judgment until he got to know Straus.
“Regardless of how the campaign had gone or who he had supported, I knew the folks I represent needed me to work with the speaker. I met him and I didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard a bunch of stories on both sides.”
Over the years the two worked well together, Clardy said. Clardy also invited Straus to be the keynote speaker of the Lone Star Legislative Summit at SFA.
“He took a chance on me since I had beaten his guy in the race and he gave me an opportunity to serve on some good committees. He put me in a position to have success and to have some key legislation,” Clardy said.
The Texas Tribune contributed to this story.