I had a conversation today with a member of the Paxton forces about the events leading up to the caucus vote and the eventual election of Joe Straus.
Once Paxton elected to withdraw from the race, the conservatives did not object to electing Straus by acclamation. But they were concerned about how it would affect their ratings as conservatives, since several groups were going to count the vote for speaker and give it extra weight. Some members of the Paxton team contacted the grass roots groups and arrived at an agreement that Secretary of State Andrade blessed: Members could vote to elect Straus by acclamation and then enter a statement in the Journal that they favored someone else for speaker, and their ratings would not be adversely affected. Then Berman objected to the motion to elect Straus by acclamation. The member who told me about this said that Berman objected on his own; it was not part of a planned strategy.
My source also told me that Larry Taylor’s decision to move the caucus to the day before the session really hurt Paxton’s cause. Chisum had asked for a caucus meeting to be called on January 5, which would have given the Paxton forces an opportunity to see where members stood and left the better part of a week to try to turn the vote in their favor. But members did not want to leave their families to come to Austin for a caucus meeting. When the meeting was moved to the day before the session began, that left no opportunity between the caucus and the vote for lobbying to change members’ minds. Of course, by that time, Straus’s lead was safe.
Our conversation ended with the member telling me that, as a result of the speaker’s race, the grassroots groups are all interconnected now, and that there is likely to be a huge uprising, similar to the speaker’s race, against a vote to use the Rainy Day Fund.