Joe Straus, a fifth-generation Texan and a native of San Antonio, is a small businessman who represents northern Bexar County in the Texas House of Representatives. Joe has also been elected by his colleagues in the House to preside over the chamber as Speaker, making him the first Speaker of the House from San Antonio in more than 100 years. He was first elected Speaker in 2009 and has been overwhelmingly re-elected four times. His most recent re-election came in January 2017, when the Members of the Texas House voted for him 150-0.
A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Joe has an insurance, investments, and executive benefits practice in San Antonio. Three decades ago, he met his wife, Julie, at the Barn Door in San Antonio at a campaign event for Lamar Smith. Julie and Joe have two grown daughters.
Leadership as Speaker
As the presiding officer of the Texas House, Joe has focused on addressing the fundamental issues that support private-sector growth and practicing sound, responsible stewardship of the state's resources. Under his leadership, the House has repeatedly balanced the state budget by controlling state spending and making smart investments in the state's most important priorities, such as education, transportation, water and public safety. During the 2017 legislative session, Joe led the way in making major improvements to the state's mental health system and to Child Protective Services, including the addition of 1,400 caseworkers in order to more quickly help children in danger. In recent years, Joe has also led the effort to put more state resources into public schools in order to improve education and reduce the heavy burden on local property taxes.
Joe also stood up and protected the state from North Carolina-style bathroom bills that threatened significant harm to the state's economy and reputation. He worked closely with a coalition of leaders from the business community, law enforcement, education and the faith community in opposition to those bills. As a result of his principled stand, the Dallas Morning News named Joe its 2017 Texan of the Year, saying Joe "protected Texas from some of its worst political impulses, prevented serious damage to the economy and brought together enough bipartisans to check the far-right dominance in the Republican Party."
Texas Republicans have seen unprecedented success under Joe's leadership. When he became Speaker in 2009, the Texas House was narrowly split between 76 Republicans and 74 Democrats. Today the House consists of 95 Republicans and 55 Democrats. Joe has raised millions of dollars to support his Republican colleagues and appeared at hundreds of events on their behalf.
Joe has been working to support and elect Republican candidates for most of his life. His mother, Joci Straus, was one of a small but dedicated group of women volunteers who laid the foundation for the Texas Republican Party's rise from a small party with little influence in the middle of the 20th Century to a majority party that today has won every statewide election for more than 20 years. Joe got his own start working in politics by interning for former U.S. Senator John Tower, who delivered a breakthrough Republican victory when he won a U.S. Senate seat in 1961. Joe would later serve in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and he managed Lamar Smith's first campaign for the U.S. House.
Election to the Texas House
As Joe focused on his family and his business in San Antonio, he remained active in the Republican grass roots. He served as a member of the Bexar County Republican Management Committee and as a Bexar County Republican Party Precinct Chairman. Shortly after the 2004 general elections, Governor Rick Perry appointed then-State Representative Elizabeth Ames Jones to serve on the Texas Railroad Commission, requiring her to give up her seat in the Texas House. Joe was elected to replace her and took office in February 2005. The voters of District 121 have since re-elected Joe five times. In March 2016, he won a three-way Republican primary for the seat, defeating his closest competitor by 32 points.
Results for San Antonio
Serving as Speaker gives Joe a unique and important opportunity to work on behalf of his constituents in the San Antonio area. During his time as Speaker, the Legislature has provided a significant injection of resources for repairs and renovations at the Alamo; addressed facility needs at UTSA and Texas A&M-San Antonio; given voters the opportunity to abolish the Bexar Metropolitan Water District; and repeatedly acted to support and protect San Antonio's military bases and veteran community. He has also played a key role in the effort to expand Highway 281 between 1604 and the county line without tolls.
As the San Antonio Express-News has said, "He provides crucial leadership on important San Antonio issues. His constituents benefit significantly by having the Speaker represent their district."