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Simpson mulls run for House speaker

By Glenn Evans
Dec. 4, 2012 at 10 p.m.


State Rep. David Simpson has long said he'll vote for the most conservative candidate to lead the Texas House of Representatives come January. He indicated Tuesday some House members think he's that candidate.

"For some time, multiple legislators have asked me to consider running for speaker," Simpson wrote in a prepared statement. "Out of respect for my colleagues' wishes, I am giving thought and prayer to the matter."

The Longview Republican had not mentioned that potential future when he discussed the speaker's race Monday night with We The People-Longview, the local tea party group.

He has been ambiguous about the speaker candidacy of his fellow Northeast Texas Republican, Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola.

The speaker of the House controls the flow of bills through the lower chamber in the capitol. The speaker also makes all-important committee assignments.

Simpson voted against GOP Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio shortly after swearing in for his first term in January 2011. Straus appointed him to the committees for urban affairs and for border and intergovernmental affairs.

Hughes had voted "present, not voting," when Straus was selected to run the House in the 82nd legislative session. Hughes was placed on the committees for human services and for agriculture and livestock.

Hughes, who is entering his seventh session, is the only candidate who has filed to challenge Straus. Simpson had not filed by Tuesday.

"I have told people I will vote for the most conservative, liberty-loving candidate on Jan. 8, that has integrity and will enforce the rules, even for the minority," Simpson said in a statement to the News-Journal.

That last phrase could make the Longview representative attractive to Democrats, though his conservative positions on issues including welfare reform could trump that.

While still a minority in the House, Democrats picked up six seats in November to eliminate the Republican's 101-49 supermajority of two years ago. The party ratio will be 95 Republicans and 55 Democrats this time around.

Simpson also could have influence with the 43 first-time lawmakers and his 23 fellow sophomores comprising well more than one third of the 150-member House.

His freshman session was marked by hot-and-cold relationships with the Republican leadership, including Straus, who said one Simpson bill would make the state a laughingstock, and powerful Democrats such as Senfronia Thompson of Houston.

Thompson reacted to Simpson's one-man attempt to derail her bill to stop so-called puppy mills by donning a T-shirt that said she missed Tommy Merritt, Simpson's Republican predecessor in District 7.

Simpson eventually wooed more members to his Libertarian argument against bigger government. Thompson also high-fived Simpson and posed for a friendly photo at session's end after Simpson crossed party lines to help her amend another bill.

We The People-Longview co-founder Michael Schwartz focused on that element in Simpson's political style. During Monday's speech, Simpson criticized Republican leaders for not conferring with the minority party in drawing new political lines. He lamented Monday that redistricting will return to lawmakers after a federal court blocked his party's maps as discriminatory in August.

Schwartz was surprised, though, to learn Simpson had revealed aspirations to the speaker's chair after Monday's meeting.

"One thing he did talk about last night - you know as a tea party person, we're very conservative - but when you ask, 'Do you want to just knock over the opposition?' the answer is 'no,' " Schwartz said. "From what I heard last night, David Simpson would be inclusive. He'd say, 'OK. We have the power, but you're going to get some and we're going to get some.' "

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