October 27, 2008
The Republican case against Tom Craddick

State Republican Executive Committee Mark McCaig says something that won't get him invited to many cocktail parties.

What was once a 26-seat Republican majority in 2003 has dwindled down to an eight-seat majority today, and this number will almost certainly shrink again this year. The Republican Party simply cannot afford any more losses in the Legislature, let alone a return to Democratic control.

The only way to prevent further erosion of the Republican majority in the Texas House is for Tom Craddick to immediately announce that he will not seek another term as speaker.

Republican leaders must acknowledge that they are to blame for squandering their legislative majority instead of blaming others or pretending nothing is wrong. New Republican leadership would go a long way to help repair the tarnished image of the party in the minds of traditionally Republican voters who have become disenchanted with politics in Austin.

Under Craddick's failed leadership, he has abandoned the conservative principles he was elected on and promoted a lobby-driven agenda at the expense of issues important to ordinary Texans.

Fiscal conservatives have had little to celebrate under Craddick's tenure. State spending has increased by more than 40 percent since 2003, and the most recent state budget included millions of dollars in so-called "special items" for Craddick's Midland-area district. Additionally, bills filed by conservative legislators to reduce property appraisal caps and limit state spending were sent by Craddick to committees where they faced certain death. Craddick also supported the oppressive business margins tax, which will likely come under scrutiny during the next legislative session because of the adverse impact it has had on small businesses.

Craddick's legislative failures are not limited to fiscal issues. He was instrumental in passing special interest bills protecting influential industries such as homebuilders, pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance companies at the expense of consumers and injured individuals. At the same time, bills important to conservatives on issues such as illegal immigration and gun rights died due to opposition from the business lobby. He has also remained steadfastly opposed to any changes in the tuition deregulation law he helped pass that has resulted in skyrocketing tuition rates across the state.

An ethical cloud also surrounds Craddick due to his close ties with lobbyists. Last year, Craddick and a prominent lobbyist were sued by a tour company following a dispute over a fishing trip to Brazil that Craddick and the lobbyist had canceled. Financial disclosure forms filed by Craddick also show a business relationship with a lobbyist he refuses to identify.

I obviously don't agree with McCaig's overall perspective, and I think there's room to disagree on the matter of some of the bills he complains about. The main point seems pretty inarguable to me, however, and I confess that I don't quite get why more Republicans don't see it this way. The GOP has gone from a huge lead in the House to possibly reverting back to minority status after three election cycles with a map they drew to elect as many of their guys as they could. Some of this is demographics, some is the general decline in the Republican brand, and some is overreaching on their part. But just as head coaches get fired and starting quarterbacks get benched for failing to perform, you'd think the Republicans would want to hold Craddick accountable for this clearcut failure. That more of them haven't seen it McCaig's way is very fortunate for the Democrats, and represents either a lot of denial, or them really being in hock to the guy. Either way, no complaints on my part. Y'all keep doing what you're doing, we'll keep clawing our way back.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 27, 2008 to That's our Lege
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