December 27, 2006
Everybody into the Speaker's race!

It was a very weird election year in Texas. Why should the Speaker's race be any different?

Tuesday brought yet another twist in the speaker's race: Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, another conservative Republican, announced he would decide by Thursday whether to become the third person to challenge Craddick, after McCall and liberal Democrat Senfronia Thompson of Houston.

"I think members of the House ought to run the House," Talton said, voicing a common refrain of discontent. "I think there needs to be changes. I told the speaker that shortly after the election."


Thompson, for her part, said she remains in the running, at least for now.

But she said if too many candidates run against Craddick for speaker, it could divide the "disgruntled" vote.

She said it would be "very difficult" for her to support Talton but she'd have "no problem" supporting McCall under certain circumstances.

"He's in the same position I'm maybe in. Can we garner enough votes on both sides of the aisle to make a cut? That's what it really boils down to," she said.

So let's see, we have an unpopular Republican incumbent running for re-election against three candidates who can combine for a majority of the vote but who may let the incumbent slip back in with a sub-majority because none of them can consolidate the anti-incumbent voters behind them. Is it just me, or has anyone else seen this movie before already? Though I must say, having Talton play the Kinky Friedman role in the remake is some pretty inspired casting.

Anybody know if the vote for Speaker requires a majority - in other words, is there a runoff if no one gets 76 Yeas? The Constitution did not address this point.

Few House members, and no committee chairpeople contacted for this story, appeared willing to openly discuss breaking ranks with the man who has decided committee assignments and chairmanships, and the fate of major bills.

"I'm focusing on getting support for a secret ballot," said Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview.

Sticking with Craddick, for example, are Democratic Reps. Robert Puente of San Antonio and Ismael "Kino" Flores of Palmview, who chair, respectively, the committees on Natural Resources and Licensing & Administrative Procedures.

Flores said Craddick's reputation for strong-arm tactics could be undeserved, but he wasn't about to test it.

"If you don't put him in a corner and if you don't punch him, he'll work with you," Flores said. "Now, has anyone opposed him and survived? I don't know. If you're asking me if I'm going to take that chance, (the answer is) no."

I've touched on this before. The number of Puentes and Floreses there are out there will determine how many anti-Craddick Republicans will be needed to complete the coup. Expect there to be a lot of head-counting in the next two weeks, because no one is going to want to be on the losing team if they can avoid it.

It's good on a number of levels that Senfronia Thompson is in the race. The main reason why is because she gives all Democrats an unimpeachable reason for supporting someone besides Craddick.

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said Sunday that he has pledged to support Thompson when the balloting occurs.

"My first obligation is going to be try to support the Democratic candidate," he said. "If we're released from our pledges, that's a different story."

Emphasis mine. Rodriguez is someone I'd expect to do the right thing regardless, but note his rationale. How can that be a wrong thing for any good Democrat to do? If it turns out Craddick doesn't have a majority from who's left, well, then a little shopping around couldn't hurt, could it?

And if all else fails, there's always the threat of a primary opponent. Would you like to have to explain to Democratic primary voters why you supported a Republican over a Democrat in the Speaker's race? I wouldn't.

Who knows what happens next? It'll be all over before you know it, so stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 27, 2006 to That's our Lege | TrackBack

The other thing that is good about Eddie's comment is that, if the Dems can hold ranks - even a supermajority of the Dems - on the first ballot when there is, at least, a three-way race for Speaker among the Rs, then the Dems will likely have a large, if not the largest, coalition of votes going into the second ballot. Exactly where they will want to be in order to offer their support to a centrist candidate. This should be very interesting.

Posted by: Jeb on December 28, 2006 10:55 AM

There is nothing Constitutionally that says the speaker election has to be by a majority - as each house has the right to elect their officers as they see fit, but the first bill that passes through the Lege is how they're going to elect the speaker. Without much deviation over the Legislatures, the bill says that it must be by a majority vote - and that if a majority is not found, a runoff between the top two vote-getters is required.

For reference (source klepped from Capitol Annex, which was using it for a slightly different purpose):

Posted by: Souperman on December 28, 2006 1:59 PM