Speaker's Race - in Texas

Despite below-freezing temperatures and the sparse parking situation at SMU, a good-sized crowd of

interested activists showed up Wednesday evening to hear State Representatives Rinaldi and Villalba discuss the upcoming race for Texas House Speaker. Radio host Mark Davis moderated the event.

From the moment the participants were introduced, it was clear that the crowd was pro-Rinaldi/pro-Scott Turner.

Jason Villalba, upon hearing the cheers for Rinaldi, immediately recognized that he and his fellow Straus supporters were outnumbered. You could almost hear the wheels turning in his head, as if to say, “Uh-oh, this may be worse than I thought.”

Watching the two men from the back of the auditorium, I was struck by the contrast in personalities, delivery, and content in their presentations.

Matt Rinaldi, a freshman representing District 115 in Irving, came across as genuine, straightforward and no-nonsense. Jason Villalba, representing Dallas in House District 114, spent much of his time stalling by complimenting Rinaldi, Turner, Rinaldi’s parents, State Representative Jonathan Stickland (who was present in the audience), and pandering to conservatives in an attempt to deflect criticism.

Right out of the gate, Villalba made the statement that “Straus is Reaganesque.” The crowd immediately erupted in laughter and jeers, setting the tone for what can only bedescribed as a beat-down for Villalba/Straus.

As one of the many conservative activists who are sick and tired of politicians dissembling and rationalizing, Matt Rinaldi is definitely a breath of fresh air.

Villalba is a typical, “I know best” arrogant politician. He grasped at every opportunity to praise Scott Turner, calling him a Godly man and describing a moment last session when they prayed together. But Villalba seemed to be playing to the crowd and came across as condescending. One of the Villalba/Straus supporters in the audience tweeted, “Took off work early to go to ‪#TXSpeakerDebate, about 90% Turner supporters. They’re good at making tshirts (sic). Critical thinking, not so much.” And in my opinion, that attitude pretty much sums up the mindset of the Straus/Villalba supporters. Like ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber, Villalba and Straus believe that voters are stupid. And when Representative Villalba boldly stated, “Bring me an opponent,” those in attendance seemed ready and willing to oblige.

Rinaldi laid out how, in a Straus-led Texas House, Democrats win more victories than Republicans, despite a large GOP majority. Villalba touted the pro-life victory from last session with HB2; Rinaldi explained that the bill passed despite Straus. As I listened to the debate, Villalba reminded me of President Obama taking credit for low gas prices; Straus, like Obama, takes credit for victories that he attempted to stop behind the scenes. Whether it is killing legislation in committee, playing games in calendars, holding votes when the leaders know the votes aren’t there, Straus manipulates the legislative process to his and his supporters’ advantage.

Towards the end of the debate Villalba actually said that he looked forward to more progressive Straus leadership; once again the crowd reacted with incredulity. Villalba’s reaction: Is “progressive” a bad word? Yes, Jason Villalba, it is.

Rinaldi deserves our gratitude for his courage and transparency. Like those 24 GOP Congressmen who voted against Boehner, and the Texas Reps who are preparing to vote against Straus, it may be quixotic to oppose GOP leadership, but it is still the right thing to do; that is, if you value honesty and transparency.

Watch the debate on YouTube here and here.