WASHINGTON (JTA) — An opponent of Joe Straus, the Jewish speaker of the Texas state Legislature, defended an e-mail in which he said he wanted "a true Christian, conservative running it."
The e-mail from John Cook continues a controversy among Texas Republicans over whether to support Straus, a Republican.
The Texas Observer obtained e-mails last week in an exchange between a Straus backer and Cook, a Straus opponent on the state party’s Republican Executive Committee, in which Cook says, "We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it."
In an interview with the Observer published Dec. 3, Cook defended his language.
"I want to make sure that a person I’m supporting is going to have my values," he said. "It’s not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right."
Cook also said, "I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They’re the people that do the best jobs overall."
Rivals seeking to unseat Straus had denounced grass-roots e-mails targeting Straus for being Jewish when they surfaced in mid-November.
GOP leaders in the state who oppose Straus insisted at the time that they sought to replace him only because he is a relative moderate, and that in the wake of the nationwide conservative sweep in Nov. 2 elections, a more right-wing candidate was more appropriate. They denounced insinuations about his Jewishness.