Speaker candidates decry use of religion
Activists deny that messages are personal attacks
Austin---The three members vying for the speaker's post in the Texas House decried the injection of religion into the contest, criticizing outside activists calling for the selection of a conservative Christian over current Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.
Straus' declared opponents are rejecting what they consider "deplorable personal attacks," although it was not clear what influence they have over outside groups agitating for Republicans to dump Straus.
The calls to replace Straus, who is known as a moderate Republican and fiscal conservative, with a conservative Christian ricocheted around the Internet this week and could spark an investigation into accusations of intimidation of House members.
Conservative activist Peter Morrison has touted GOP Reps. Warren Chisum and Ken Paxton as "Christians and true conservatives."
Chisum, of Pampa, and Paxton, of McKinney, are challenging Straus.
Morrison, who publishes a conservative newsletter called "The Peter Morrison Report" from Lumberton, asked his subscribers to demand their state representatives vote for a conservative.
He defended his preference for a Christian and true conservative speaker as "simply making a factual statement about" Chisum and Paxton.
"My opposition to Speaker Straus is based on his liberal policy positions, not his religion," Morrison said. "If Joe Straus had actually worked as speaker to pass good conservative legislation on immigration and other important issues, I wouldn't be opposing him."
Committee to investigate
The House General Investigating and Ethics Committee is planning to look into Morrison's writings.
"We're fairly sure that he's violated some codes with his intimidation of elected officials," said Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jackson, chairman of the committee.
Last week, Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, dropped his support for Straus after one of Straus' supporters allegedly told Hughes that members who oppose Straus would lose their seats in redistricting next year.