SREC member wants to oust Speaker Joe Straus because he’s Jewish, doesn’t hate gays enough

Speaker Joe Straus

We’ve already told you about the anti-gay forces that have undoubtedly been working behind the scenes in the race for speaker of the Texas House, but now it looks like they may be starting to emerge publicly. The Texas Observer posted a story Friday in which John Cook, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, explained his opposition to Speaker Joe Straus. Cook’s biggest problem with Straus, apparently, is that he’s Jewish: “I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office,” Cook says. But Cook also accuses Straus of being pro-choice and pro-gay rights:

His opposition to Straus, he said, was rooted largely in his belief that the current Speaker is both pro-choice and pro-gay rights. “He’s a pro choice person basically,” Cook said. (Earlier in his career, Straus did vote against banning gay couples from serving as foster parents and against a ban on late-term abortions, but Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life, has been one of his biggest supporters.) Cook called the Republicans who worked with Democrats to elect Straus “turncoat RINOs.” (Republicans in Name Only.)

As the legislative session draws closer, it’ll be interesting to see whether the so-called tea party folks who oppose Straus start to escalate their attacks based on his 2005 vote against the gay foster parenting ban. Particularly since Straus has said he voted against the ban because it would have cost the state a lot of money and gone against his libertarian principles. From a January 2009 interview in which Texas Monthly asked Straus about the vote:

STRAUS: …  I’m not supportive of adoption by homosexual couples, but the whole issue of government with a fiscal note attached and government employees investigating people’s private lives caused me a great deal of heartburn. I remember looking at the expenditure of taxpayer money for that and it was a lot. And it required what? Going into people’s homes? Watching the way people dress or the way they talk? I have some pretty strong libertarian leanings, and sometimes that causes a conflict. What gave me confidence to hit the button I hit was that I was very certain that Barry Goldwater would have done the same thing.

—  John Wright

Sen. Cornyn: How could I be pandering to the gays when I’m not even up for re-election?

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says there’s no way he could be pandering for votes and money by attending a dinner for a gay group six weeks before the mid-term elections — because he’s not even on the ballot this year.

Cornyn, who’s never before spoken to the gay press, made the statement in a direct message to Dallas Voice on Twitter on Aug. 1, two days after he was accused of pandering in a post on this blog. We didn’t notice the Twitter message in our Inbox until this week.

Cornyn has consistently voted against gay rights in the Senate, receiving a zero from the Human Rights Campaign on its Congressional Scorecard, and he’s advocated for a federal ban on gay marriage as recently as this year. Now, with the election looming, he’s agreed to speak at the National Dinner of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group.

As chair of the Senatorial Committee, Cornyn is over Republican re-election efforts this year. We suggested that he’s trying to scrounge up money and votes for Republicans from gays around the country by appearing at Log Cabin. But Cornyn seemed to have forgotten about his role as committee chair when he sent the Twitter message. He suggested that he couldn’t be pandering because he’s not up for re-election until 2014. Again, the Instant Tea post to which Cornyn was responding is here, and here’s a screen grab of his Twitter message, in which he appears to specifically address our criticism related to the timing of the dinner, which will be held Sept. 22:

We tried to send Cornyn a direct-message response, but we were unable to do so because he isn’t a follower of Dallas Voice on Twitter. So we sent him a public response requesting an interview. He has not responded.

John, if you’re reading this, we’d love to talk to you. Instant Tea is officially nonpartisan. You may get a chance to prove you’re not pandering by voting for a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which could come to the Senate floor around the same time as the Log Cabin dinner.

Until then, we’re inclined to agree with the Texas Observer, which has a post up today mentioning Cornyn’s appearance at the Log Cabin dinner. Congressman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who’s over the House campaign committee, is also slated to appear. From the Observer:

So why would these two leading gay-rights opponents — Republicans from a state where gay people can’t even get divorced, and the governor can’t stop bashing them — attend such a function? Because their job is to raise campaign cash. While marriage might be reserved for certain people, and while gays might make a handy punching-bag when you want to throw some red meat at the hardcore right-wing folk out there, money is money. Priorities are priorities.

—  John Wright