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Moderate GOP Texas House speaker Joe Straus not seeking re-election

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Will Weissert, Associated Press

AUSTIN — Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Straus — a powerful moderate voice that kept the country's largest conservative state from moving even father to the right — abruptly announced Wednesday that he won't seek re-election.

Straus, whose seat is based in a wealthy area of San Antonio, made the surprise announcement on his Facebook page and in an email to supporters. He said, "my family and I have decided that I will not run for re-election next year." His current term expires in December 2018, just before the Legislature next convenes.

Straus opposed many of the top conservative priorities championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Texas Senate. This session, his chamber was instrumental in blocking the "bathroom bill" targeting transgender students.

The House speaker decides committee assignments and Straus used top lieutenants to block top legislation such as the bathroom bill. Conservative groups have for years decried Straus as a closet Democrat, but he crushed primary challenges backed by the tea party movement in recent electoral cycles.

In January, his colleagues elected Straus to a record-tying fifth term unanimously — signifying that he was at the height of his power.

"It's been decades since someone has left the Speaker's office on his own terms," Straus said. "But we have accomplished what I had hoped the House would accomplish when I first entered this office, and I am increasingly eager to contribute to our state in new and different ways."