Speaker of the House candidates, in their own words

Joe Straus (right), Warren Chisum (left)

ProN ews 7 has been following the Speaker's race going on in the Texas House. It seems there has been quite a bit of back and forth. While the winner will be decided by their fellow House members, ProN ews 7 thought it was important to let our viewers hear from the candidates first hand.

It's a three way race, featuring Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and Ken Paxton (R-McKinney). Chisum and Straus both responded to our request, Paxton chose not to, multiple calls were made to his office over the past week, but were never returned.

We asked each speaker candidate these questions:Why should your fellow house members support you?What would you identify as the biggest problem facing the state, how do you plan to address it?Are you willing to really work with D emocrats?What will you do to avoid wasting time on issues that waste the House's time, like the Voter ID issue did in the last session?

Below you will find the unedited responses we received from Chisum and Straus.

1. Why should your fellow house members support you?

Chisum: " My philosophy on serving as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives is straightforward. As Representatives, we should keep our campaign promises to the conservative voters of Texas who just elected the largest Republican majority in history. Furthermore, the Speaker should protect the integrity of the House of Representatives. As far as I am concerned, that means an open process, fairness to all members, Democrat and Republican alike.We need to unite behind a conservative leader chosen by the Republican Caucus I believe in principled persuasion, not strong-arm tactics. The members know my character, my trustworthiness, my fairness, and my faithfulness to conservative principles. In January, we will be facing the most difficult session Texas has ever faced. Together, we must find a way to appropriately fund the state's obligations while not raising taxes, which can only be done by reducing government budgets. I have been around long enough to watch Speakers Lewis, Laney, Craddick, and Straus. No two were the same in their leadership or management style, my leadership will be equally unique. I will always work to protect the members, and I will expect each member to vote their convictions and their district. We have a job to do, and we need an experienced, conservative leader at this point in history."

Straus: " I am grateful for the support of a super-majority of Republicans and the House as a whole, and I see it as a strong endorsement of the work I've done in the last two years. I am focused on the challenges Texas faces in the future, and I'm proud to have the overwhelming support of the House members as we address the budget shortfall and other pressing issues next session."

2. What would you identify as the biggest problem facing the state, how do you plan to address it?

Straus: " Passing a balanced budget and addressing the budget shortfall will be our most urgent priority, and it's imperative that the state of Texas cover its budget shortfall without a tax increase. Increasing taxes would restrain economic growth and hinder our ability to create jobs.On November 2nd, the voters spoke loudly and clearly. They want spending to be under control. They don't want taxes raised in order to address our budget shortfall. In preparation to address this shortfall, I've been working this interim with Governor Perry and Lt. Gov Dewhurst, and we've already asked for a five percent reduction in the spending of state agencies, and we will be asking them to cut 2 to 3 percent more in the 10 months that remain in this fiscal year. So, the budget is going to be a very large challenge for us."

Chisum: " Texas is facing a budget deficit of more than $20 billion, there can be little argument that this is the biggest problem facing the state. The underlying issues within this deficit are runaway spending on entitlement programs and our effort to solve our education challenges by throwing money at the problem. There has been more than enough written about Texas' interest in finding alternatives to the federal mandates in Medicaid, and I think Texas can likely do a better job taking care of Texans in need than Washington does.Education in our state has also added to our deficit concerns without increasing the educational benefit to our students. Between 1987 and 2007 per-pupil costs skyrocketed in Texas from $3,659 to $11,024, representing a 66 percent increase when adjusted for inflation during the same time period. Over the last 20 years, total Texas public school expenditures increased 142 percent when adjusting for inflation. During that same time Texas' students ratings on national tests have shown little to no increase in educational proficiencies, with some limited exceptions in some minority education. We cannot keep throwing money down the same hole with no real results."

3. Are you willing to really work with democrats?

Chisum: " I always have and I always will, but the fact is, my opponent, Joe Straus, let Democrats drive the train. That is wrong when Texans have voted to make the Republicans the majority."

Straus: " I have proven that I can lead the Texas House even under difficult circumstances with a slim majority, and I am willing to work with everyone who wants to improve our state, our business climate, our schools and the quality of life for our Texas families."

4. What will you do to avoid wasting time on issues that waste the House's time, like the Voter ID issue did in the last session?

Straus: " The House will continue to do the people's business in a constructive and respectful way, and members will bring bills forward that are of concern to constituents both locally and across the state. Specifically on the Voter ID issue, members have identified using photo ID to enhance the integrity of elections here in Texas as an important issue that has broad voter support, and I believe it will be addressed and passed this next session."

Chisum: " Important issues do not cause wasted time. Weak leadership lets the House waste time. Joe Straus was put in as Speaker two years ago, but in many ways he is still a newbie legislator. His style is just too weak to manage the House. Of course, you can be too strong too, but in my case, I think you will find that Warren Chisum will be just about right."