May 14, 2007
Speaker's Race II: The Wrath of Tom

Clay Robison looks back at last week's parliamentary revolt in the House and speculates about Speaker Tom Craddick's future.

A speaker's race, with or without Craddick, is all but assured in advance of the next regular session two years from now, and its outcome will partly be determined by next year's legislative races. Republicans hold an 81-69 edge in the House, meaning that a net gain of six Democratic seats (the same number the Ds gained during the last cycle) would throw the House into a partisan tie.

Even more modest Democratic gains could result in the election of a new speaker in 2009, provided dissident Democrats and their Republican allies aren't outmaneuvered and out-muscled by Craddick, as they were in January, when the veteran lawmaker from Midland beat back a challenge by fellow Republican Jim Pitts of Waxahachie.

The speaker's rare loss of a parliamentary fight last week -- following a couple of more minor setbacks recently -- quickened the pulses of Craddick's opponents to the point that, by week's end, some even were contemplating the possibility of trying to unseat him before this session adjourns on May 28.

That would require an almost-unheard-of motion to vacate the chair. Such a step would be extremely difficult to pull off, because it would require most House members not only to turn on the speaker but also to agree on a successor.

The more likely scenario is that the session ends, Craddick (if he is running again) actively solicits pledge cards from members, and would-be challengers of both parties seek support and weigh their chances.

Except that, according to Burka, a motion to vacate the Chair is apparently in the works. At the very least, Craddick supporters are worried about it enough to take action. Burka prints an email from the chair of the Texas Republican County Chairman's Association, which sounds the alarm and tells people to contact their member in support of Craddick. This is, as he says, completely unprecedented.

From what I understand, the week after the deadline for second- and third-readings of bills is normally pretty tranquil, with the real frenzy occurring in the last week. As with so many things this session, it looks like what's normal is not what will happen. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 14, 2007 to That's our Lege