This post has been updated throughout since we sent out our Breaking News alert.

Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and State Affairs Committee Chair Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) announced they would not seek re-election.

“I believe that in a representative democracy, those who serve in public office should do so for a time, not for a lifetime,” Straus said in a statement. “My time as a State Representative and as Speaker will end at the conclusion of my current term.”

Speaker Joe Straus

Speaker Joe Straus

Rep. Byron Cook

Rep. Byron Cook

Straus has served five terms as speaker since ousting Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland) just before the 2009 session. Cook was one of the last remaining Republican members who backed Straus over Craddick. Those 13 Republicans joined the Democrats in providing Straus the votes he needed to claim the gavel. He has survived several intra-party challenges since, though only one ever came to a full vote of the House (Another ended in a caucus vote.).

“I will also continue to work for a Republican Party that tries to bring Texans together instead of us pulling us apart,” Straus said. “I plan to be a voice for Texans who want a more constructive and unifying approach to our challenges, from the White House on down.”

Cook has served since 2003. He narrowly won his last Republican primary race over Corsicana businessman Thomas McNutt, who is running again this year.

“I will pursue other opportunities to serve our great state,” Cook said in a statement. “I will work hard throughout the remaining 14 months of my current term in serving my district.” Cook was recently appointed to chair a Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness, and he said he will fulfill that duty. Cook also chairs the powerful Committee on State Affairs.

Straus was first elected to the House in a 2005 special election. He had served less than two full terms when he was elected Speaker.

“This is the first time in decades that a Speaker is able to leave office on his own terms,” Straus said during a press conference in his Capitol office.

Straus’s announcement sets up the first truly open speaker’s race since former Speaker Pete Laney’s (D-Hale Center) ascension to the dais following the departure of former Speaker Gib Lewis (D-Fort Worth). Craddick came to power following a wave of Republican victories in 2002 which gave the party control of the chamber for the first time since Reconstruction. Straus served five terms as speaker, tying him for the longest-ever tenure with Laney and Lewis. In late May, Straus signaled that he would seek a record-setting sixth term as the House’s presiding officer.

The race to succeed him has already begun. Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) filed paperwork establishing his candidacy for Speaker. Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) previously declared himself a candidate. Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), often mentioned as a potential successor to Straus, is said to be weighing his options. Democratic Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) said in a statement that he was considering running for Speaker, but clarified in a tweet that he was not currently a candidate.

Straus said he would “not have much to say” about his successor. “I won’t have a vote,” he said.

Asked about possibly running for another office, Straus said there is a “hunger for a Republican voice” that focuses on “encouraging jobs instead of driving them away.” Straus said he is “not one to close doors” but does not have plans to do so at this time. Asked specifically about running for governor, Straus said, “I don’t have any plans beyond today” but being a constructive voice. Asked if he would be on the 2018 ballot at all, Straus said, “I highly doubt it.”

As of June 30, Straus’s campaign account had nearly $10M on hand, trailing only Gov. Greg Abbott ($41M) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ($16M).

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