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The Best and Worst Legislators 2009

Best Leader

Speaker Joe Straus
He had eleven days to prepare to lead a House almost evenly divided. He struggled for weeks over how to appoint members he hardly knew to committees whose jurisdiction he hardly understood, and the resulting delay bollixed the timetable for the entire session. But he was elected to let the body work its will, in the hope that bipartisanship and independence would flourish anew and the memory of the failed Craddick speakership would fade away. He followed the game plan. He never lost his cool, never issued an order, never took a policy position, and never imposed his will—not even when the divisive voter ID bill hit the House floor and the Democrats launched their delay-of-game strategy. With the end-of-session deadline fast approaching and bills expiring with each ticktock, this was the moment when the trains really needed to run on time. Craddick would have acted as stationmaster. Straus let the clock run out, and few members seemed to mind. It’s a strange kind of leadership, but it appears to be what the House wants: He has enough pledges to be reelected Speaker in 2011.

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