So now that the Great Speaker Race of '09 is over even before the Legislature officially opens for business, let me take a moment to enjoy a little smug satisfaction at the fate of Tom Craddick and his most loyal sycophants. I figure I better get this out of the way now, since Straus appears to be headed for a 150-0 win, and once that happens we'll all forget what went on beforehand. Plus, Lord knows once the Lege gets down to business they'll do plenty of things I don't like. So, without further ado, here's Gardner Selby on the man himself and how he helped engineer his own downfall:
I can't shake two other numbers due to be cherished by Democrats and gnawed on by Republicans. They're also the numbers that explain why Craddick was imperiled right after November's elections and why both parties view the 2010 elections as do-or-die-pivotal for controlling the House.
They're 26 and two.
In 2003, when Craddick became the House's first Republican speaker since Reconstruction, he rode GOP wins in 2002 converting what had been a six-vote Democratic House majority into a 26-vote Republican advantage. But by the time Craddick slumped this year, the GOP's House edge had shriveled to two.
Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, who helps guide the House Democratic Campaign Committee, rates as significant the quality of Democratic candidates, among them a decorated veteran, school board members and a county judge. Vinegary issues -- such as opposition to private-school vouchers and tuition deregulation and support for children's insurance -- played well with voters, too.
"The unifying thing about our wins has been experienced and qualified Democrats running at a time when voters are fed up with what has happened in Austin and Washington," Gallego said, giving a "Democratic infrastructure that gets consistently underestimated the opportunity to capitalize."
In the end, Craddick hurt his chances of holding on in the closely divided House with his style.
Gallego said that after Democrats felt raked over by Republicans in 2003 and 2004, he spoke with Craddick on ways to calm the waters. He said Craddick replied: "I don't care," adding that Democrats were free to howl and vote as they pleased, but he expected to prevail.
That was before 26 plunged to two.
Corte was quoted Sunday as saying he had "never looked at (Straus') record," but knew he could count on Craddick's support for issues involving "limited government, traditional family values and opposition to abortion."
The comments were in keeping with a statewide effort by social conservatives to vilify one of their own. Straus, a lifelong Republican and an appointee under two GOP presidents, was the subject of e-mails and phone calls describing him as too soft on pro-life issues and inadequately supportive of things such as private school vouchers.
Interestingly, this same brand of hard-core allegiance to a few issues is the primary reason why, after 17 years in the Legislature, Corte's effectiveness has never equaled his experience.
At a time when many lawmakers were making compromises, including state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, a local Democrat who belatedly switched from Craddick to Straus on Sunday, Corte stubbornly chose the dogma of one wing of his party over big-tent practicality and the greater good of his community.
"We are talking about real politics, and the reality is there is a hometown boy who could be speaker and that is good for Bexar County," said Jim Lunz, a longtime local Republican activist who said Corte would be "foolish" not to team with Straus.
It would be one thing if an unyielding socially conservative agenda was growing the Republican Party, Lunz said. But Republicans have lost seats in Congress and the Legislature for several cycles running, culminating with the 2008 presidential election.
"I think one of the things November told every Republican is that we weren't popular and we better change our ways," Lunz said.
A lot of [Craddick supporters] have said they didn't like the Straus candidacy because it was bouyed by Democrats - a common accusation was that they "chose" him - and there were rumblings among them that they didn't want to work with him.
Personally, I find it amusing that they can claim to have a right to the speakership with no support from Democrats in a chamber in which they barely - barely - have the majority. Welcome to Wonderland, honorable ones. You want a united House? Try governing one in which one less than half of had no say in who the speaker was.
Oh, wait. That already happened.
There are also people [like] Leo Berman who were blatantly calling former Craddick Republicans liars and thugs, "there is no honor among them" (way to bring people to your side, Mr. Chairman), giving the impression that they would never come around.
They were, demonstrably, upset and heartbroken. That's understandable. They got their hats handed to them and they were not, initially, part of the decision. By all accounts - not just mine, but ALL accounts - they could have been a part of the decision had they come up with an alternative to the ABC pick before last week. They did not. Game over.
Oh, and since Burka brings up the question of who the great villain for the Democrats - in particular, their campaign managers - will be now that Craddick has been sidelined, the obvious answer is Rick Perry and David Dewhurst, with maybe a little Dan Patrick thrown in for the locals. Surely you don't think that defenestrating Craddick removes the last obstacle to a Democratic agenda, do you? Craddick was convenient, but he wasn't the whole story, not by a longshot.Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 09, 2009 to That's our Lege