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.
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.
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 28 points.
Leadership as Speaker
In January 2009, the Members of the Texas House unanimously voted to elect Joe as Speaker. The House has since overwhelmingly re-elected him Speaker four times. 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 stabilize the CPS workforce. He also pushed for education reforms that would put more state dollars in the classroom and begin to relieve the burden on local property taxes.
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.
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."