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State Rep. Ralph Sheffield criticized for supporting Texas House Speaker Joe Straus

BY BRENNAN K. PEEL | TELEGRAM STAFF

As the proverbial dust settles from the hubbub of the 82nd Legislature, offseason politics begins as those unhappy with elected politicians voice their concerns, perhaps more audible now than when state lawmakers were in session.

John Alaniz of Temple announced he’s considering a run for the District 55 seat, currently held by Ralph Sheffield, because Alaniz is upset with what he calls Sheffield’s lack of principle. Alaniz ran for the seat in 2008, in which Sheffield won his first term.

Alaniz isn’t alone in his opinion.

The Tea Party Conservatives, a local cohort, invited Sheffield to its weekly meeting Monday to, in part, question his support of politicians deemed too left-leaning. Specifically, Sheffield was asked about his flip-flop in support of Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, the two-term state Speaker of the House. Sheffield said he has pledged support for Straus next session.

There’s the potential for a statewide backlash against Straus and the legislators who voted for him as the tea party gains political prowess and social conservatives vote in high numbers.

A Texas Observer article from earlier this month said that many moderate legislators “referenced the unprecedented level of power that Tea Party groups and anti-tax groups like Empower Texans hand around the Capitol.” The article cites the group Empower Texans as an organization that “could inspire fear in moderate Republicans with the threat of negative blogposts.”

Empower Texans published a blog Friday that cited Straus’s leadership and role in appointee committee chairs as the reason why more conservative budget reforms weren’t passed.

A January 2009 Telegram article cited Sheffield as a supporter of Speaker candidate John Smithee after House Speaker Tom Craddick conceded his bid for another term as Speaker. Sheffield said he was opposed to Straus, who Sheffield said did not represent Republican ideals. Sheffield said he eventually voted for Straus after Craddick’s concession.

But things were different during the latest session.

The Republican Caucus met in Austin the day before the 82nd Legislature convened. At the meeting, all but one of the 101 Republican members of the state House of Representatives was on hand, and 70 voted in support of Straus to serve another term.

“More than two-thirds of the Republicans showed their support for him, so I think that speaks to what people think of him,” Sheffield said.

The next day at the Capitol, Straus was elected Speaker of the House with 132 of the 150 total votes, including Sheffield’s.

“I feel very confident that he’ll be a great leader,” Sheffield said later that day. “I’m a conservative individual and represent a conservative district. I feel comfortable with supporting Straus because I feel he represents the same values I do.”

The shift from his 2008 views on Straus to the latest session was the result of being “green in the process,” Sheffield said. Nowadays, he’s all aboard on the Straus bandwagon.

“I think we did a fantastic job under his leadership,” he said about the Legislature under Straus’s watch. “For the social conservatives out there we passed the sonogram bill and basically stripped Planned Parenthood down to nothing.”

Davis Ford, a Republican Party precinct commissioner and Tea Partier, said that while Sheffield’s voting record was more conservative than expected — a welcomed surprise — his support of Straus was inexcusable.

Ford said about Straus, “I think he’s a pro-abortion, pro-gambling, social Democrat with an R in front of his name.”

But what really peeves Alaniz, Ford and many like them is the perpetual problem with politics: votes are garnered and lost often with threats and promises of rewards rather than on merit or principle.

Ford’s greatest pragmatic criticism of Straus is that he appointed RINOs — a nickname for “Republicans in name only,” those with voting records that often don’t align with the Republican Party’s platform — and Democrats as committee chairmen.

“My biggest issues are the strong-arming of our best representatives and the ‘quid pro quo’ environment that buys votes with promises of power or campaign contributions,” Alaniz said in a statement.

Sheffield said that those who voted against Straus didn’t get the committee placements they requested, but that such action by Straus, who assigns committee placements, isn’t punishment.

“It’s just a part of the process,” he said. “You’re either going to be a player on the team or you’re going to be a renegade.”

Conversely, Sheffield said that Straus “pretty much gave me exactly what I asked for in my committee picks,” which Sheffield said is best for his constituents, regardless of their views on Straus.

“A lot of people before the last session blasted him about religion, which is totally wrong, because that’s not politics,” Sheffield said. “I don’t worry about those things because you’ve got to do what moves your district along. If that means voting for Joe Straus then that’s what I’m going to do, because that’s how I get things done.”

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3 Responses to “State Rep. Ralph Sheffield criticized for supporting Texas House Speaker Joe Straus”

  1. Freedom of Information Request – Texas Pledge Cards Empower the Incumbent | Voices Empower Says:

    […] State Rep. Ralph Sheffield criticized for supportg Texas House Speaker Joe Straus […]

  2. Barbara Harless Says:

    This is an excellent article with perfect information for responsible individuals to take and act on!

    Evidentlly MOST legislators don’t know what’s in the TEXAS Government Code that guides and RESTRICTS legislative activity. TX Govt Code, Section 302.032 SPECIFICALLY STATES:
    Sec. 302.032. LEGISLATIVE BRIBERY: PROMISES OR THREATS. A person commits an offense if, with the intent to influence a member of or candidate for the house of representatives in casting a vote for speaker of the house of representatives, the person:(1) promises or agrees to cause:(A) the appointment of a person to a chairmanship or vice-chairmanship of a house committee or subcommittee;(B) the appointment of a person to a particular house committee or subcommittee, the Legislative Budget Board, the Texas Legislative Council, the Legislative Library Board, the Legislative Audit Committee, or any other position the speaker appoints;(C) preferential treatment on any legislation or appropriation;(D) the employment of a person; or(E) economic benefit to a person; or(2) threatens to cause:(A) the failure to appoint a person to a chairmanship or vice-chairmanship of a house committee or subcommittee;(B) the failure to appoint a person to a particular house committee or subcommittee, the Legislative Budget Board, the Texas Legislative Council, the Legislative Library Board, the Legislative Audit Committee, or any other position the speaker appoints;(C) unfavorable treatment on any legislation or appropriation;(D) the refusal of or removal from employment of a person; or(E) the withholding of economic benefit from a person.
    Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 479, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.
    http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.302.htm#302.032
    Put YOUR TX House Rep in the spotlight. Ask and verify whether they have pledged support for the 2013 Speaker’s seat, or plan to. Pledging is a FELONY, punishable by imprisonment for not less than two years nor more than five years. (Sec. 302.034. PENALTY)

    IT’S THE LAW!
    Thanks for the great reporting Voices!

  3. John Alaniz Conservative Republican for Texas House District 55 Says:

    […] heart would not allow him to do so A word about John Alaniz who has committed himself to challenge Texas Rep. Ralph Sheffield at the ballot box. John has a true servant’s heart and is a dedicated and uncompromising […]

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