So the Speaker's race is over, and it didn't go the way I hoped. These things happen, and I can't really say that this was an unexpected result. I had hope, but it was always going to be tough. Now it's time to move on and make the best of it.
First order of business is to acknowledge and thank the 27 Democrats who stuck it out till the end and cast a No vote on Craddick. That vote was largely symbolic, and I have no quibble with the Dems who chose not to make that statement; one can certainly question what good it would do them and their constituents at that point. Nonetheless, those 27 deserve extra credit for their courage, and I salute them for it.
The vote that really mattered was the vote to table the Geren Amendment, which would have allowed the vote for Speaker to remain secret until after committee assignments were made.
The 80-68 vote to kill Rep. Charlie Geren's amendment -- concealing how House members vote on the speaker's race for several weeks -- can be seen as the real vote on keeping Tom Craddick as speaker. If so, a change in six votes would have deadlocked the House. Change seven, and Jim Pitts might have won.
Only 14 Republicans voted against tabling the Geren amendment: Gary Elkins, Mr. Geren, Pat Haggerty, Bryan Hughes, Delwin Jones, Ed Kuempel, Thomas Latham, Brian McCall, Tommy Merritt, Mr. Pitts, Todd Smith, Joe Straus, Robert Talton and Buddy West.
The 15 Democrats who sided with Craddick forces in killing the Geren amendment?
They were: Kevin Bailey, Norma Chavez, Joe Deshotel, Dawnna Dukes, Harold Dutton, Kino Flores, Helen Giddings, Ryan Guillen, Tracy King, Eddie Lucio III, Ruth Jones McClendon, Aaron Pena, Robert Puente, Patrick Rose and Sylvester Turner.
None of the Democratic names surprise me, though one in particular certainly disappoints me. Some of those Republican names are interesting - Gary Elkins? Really? What's his beef with Craddick? I can explain most of the others, with Buddy West being an exception. And a tip of the hat here to freshman rep and ParentPAC candidate Thomas Latham. That took guts.
What to do with the Craddick-crat 15? While I have no problem with this reaction, I think it'll be impractical. I'm willing to wait and see how some of these folks perform this session before making up my mind. I don't think just this vote is going to be enough to build a successful primary campaign against anyone. Their argument is going to be that since they have power and influence in Craddick's circle, their constituents benefit. It's the ones with the undistinguished records to begin with who will have the hardest time backing up that claim with anything tangible who will be truly vulnerable.
Basically, I see this as the difference between a Sylvester Turner and an Al Edwards. Edwards had a million years' seniority, he was a Craddick lieutenant, he gave Craddick a key vote on the tax swap bill from the 2005 regular session that was a cornerstone of the Republicans' plan to meet the requirements of the Supreme Court order (it never got through the Senate and eventually died at the hands of the Hochberg Fourteen), and what did he do with all that goodwill and influence? He got the Sexy Cheerleading bill to a floor vote. It's members like that - and here I'm looking at Kevin Bailey and Dawnna Dukes, though that list is by no means exhaustive - for whom supporting Craddick, and thus enabling every atrocity that this Lege and the two before it will commit, will be a beacon and a rallying point. It's their record that makes them vulnerable, and it's their support of Craddick that will serve as the galvanizing factor for whoever runs against them.
(And bear in mind that it took a lot of money and a runoff to oust Edwards. Even with a strong case against an incumbent, this is a tall order and by no means a given.)
Two more things to discuss. One is the Burka situation.
During the debate on the Geren amendment, to my total surprise and consternation, [Will] Hartnett cited my observation in the blog that his propsal was fair. All of a sudden heads were swiveling around to look at me--I was sitting in the gallery--and I felt like I was having one of those dreams when you're running down the street naked. But, as they say, I stand by my story. The original proposal, to have a roll call vote in which members voted from their desks, was a clear effort at intimidation, and I thought it might cost Craddick the race. But a process that calls for secret ballots with the individual votes to be announced immediately afterward is fair. The House has used it many times in the past, though not recently. It eliminates the seamier aspects of electronic or roll call voting--"machine malfunctions" that allow members to change their votes to the winning side, and delaying tactics that provide an opportunity for armtwisting and motions to reconsider the vote. The Geren proposal would have changed the nature of the speakership. Part of the inherent power of the office is the speaker's ability to appoint committee chairs and committee members who are loyal to him. Take away that power and you weaken the office. The office is more important than Tom Craddick. To put it another way, reward and punishment are part of politics--too much a part, in the case of Craddick, but a necessary part nevertheless.
And finally, there's the issue of what happens in 2009 if the Democrats manage to regain a majority in the House next year. (Maybe that's not terribly likely, but it needs to be considered anyway.) What will the returning members of the Craddick 15 do if their choice is between a Democrat and Tom Craddick, instead of a choice between two Republicans? Whatever the merits of a primary challenge against any of them may be, I want to know each of their answers to that question.
So we go from here. Only 139 more days until sine die. Stay tuned.Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 10, 2007 to That's our Lege