Spokesman: Speaker Straus ‘not interested' in Lamar Smith's congressional seat

No announced candidates yet for 21st District-TX 2018 race

SAN ANTONIO – As speculation swirled in the wake of Rep. Lamar Smith's announcement that he would not run for another term, one name was on many lips as to who might replace him: outgoing Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus.

A statement Friday afternoon from Jason Embry, a spokesman for Texans for Joe Straus, put that idea to rest.

"Speaker Straus is grateful for the tireless and outstanding service of his friend Congressman Smith, but the Speaker is not interested in his friend’s congressional seat," Embry wrote.

Smith announced Thursday he would not seek re-election in the 2018 race. Straus had seemed an obvious possibility to replace him. "A natural," said Henry Flores, a political science professor at St. Mary's University. 

"He's got a huge war chest, high name recognition and he's got a very good reputation," said Flores, who spoke with KSAT 12 prior to Embry's emailed statement. "But with that much money in his war chest, he will be very influential one way or the other, whether he runs or not."

Another candidate Flores said could have a good shot at the seat should she choose to run is state Sen. Donna Campbell, who released her own statement. 

“While it is indeed an honor to be considered as a candidate for US Congress, I want to end the speculation. I have no plans to seek the seat currently held by Lamar Smith. I am firmly committed to serving our state and District 25 in the Texas Senate. My focus remains on helping families and businesses right here in the Lone Star State," the New Braunfels Republican said.

One local who is openly interested in the seat is Robert Stovall, chairman of the Republican Party of Bexar County. Flores said his name recognition in the county could give Stovall a chance, but he is not sure how the chairman would do against someone better known.

On the other hand, Flores also believes the race could be an opportunity for some new blood - maybe an aide or a failed local candidate.

"This would be a good time for a young Republican to step up and say, 'You know, let's go for it.' Particularly, if Straus doesn't throw his hat in the ring," Flores said.
Though the ring remains empty for now, there aren't really any definite answers.

"Sometimes a definitive 'no' is really a definitive 'maybe. Let's wait to see how things really happen,'" Flores said with a laugh.

Whoever does step up, Flores said, will probably need $1.5 million to $2 million just to get a bare-bones operation up and running. 

"Generally, the rule of thumb is about two-thirds of the money you're going to raise is all going to go to media and media operations," Flores said. "So if you don't have name recognition, you're going to be spending a lot of money, and you're going to need a lot of it."

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