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Today’s Speaker Race update

It’s really hard to keep up on all the developments in the Speaker’s race. Let’s see what I can do to bring you up to speed.

Here’s the Chron story on the latest entrant into the fray, Waxahachie Republican Jim Pitts:

Jim Pitts, 59, the affable Republican from Waxahachie whom Craddick appointed to chair the influential Appropriations Committee in 2004, said he decided to challenge the 63-year-old speaker from Midland because he is convinced he can win.

While refusing to name names or discuss precise numbers, Pitts said at an afternoon news conference that he’d done the math and, unlike either of his opponents, had come up with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans backing him.

“I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t feel that I would win overwhelmingly on Jan. 9,” he said.

I’ve already said that Pitts would be okay by me. Now I’m going to say that Pitts may be a stalking horse for Craddick. He may be the not-McCall candidate, rather than the not-Craddick candidate. A major consideration here for some Republicans is that being part of a power-seizing coalition that’s three-quarters Democratic might be hazardous to their health in a future primary. Pitts could win simply by getting the bulk of Craddick’s support, plus some Republicans who currently support McCall. That’s a Republican-dominated coalition, which achieves the end of ousting Craddick, but does so in a way that’s sufficiently palatable to those involved. Mind you, this would still be an improvement over Speaker Craddick. The question is whether the choice is between Pitts and McCall, or Pitts and Craddick.

On the other hand, if Leo Berman is any indicator, then maybe it’s not so simple for Pitts after all. Like I said, it’s hard to keep up with all of this.

Best quote of the entire affair:

Craddick, meanwhile, insisted he held a decisive lead and released a list of 84 members that his consultant, Bill Miller, called “solid hard,” “in our pocket” supporters, people who had been called “two and three times” to reconfirm their support for him, including Pitts.

Craddick spokeswoman Alexis DeLee appeared stunned that Pitts had entered the race.

“We have not heard that,” DeLee said about an hour after Pitts confirmed his candidacy. “He told us he’s in our camp. Well, that’s just one less person on the list.”

You can see why nobody is taking Craddick’s pledge lists seriously any more. How can you when he doesn’t even know who really supports him and who doesn’t?

From where I sit, which isn’t in Austin and which isn’t connected to all this, it feels to me like the longer this gets drawn out, the less likely Craddick is to survive. Power is as much about perception as anything, and right now Tom Craddick looks weak. If fear plays any role in keeping some of his support in line, then the weaker Craddick looks the less there is to fear from him. Remember, a vote for Speaker can be called during the session. Even if Craddick wins on January 9, he’s not free to go back to his old ways.

Describing himself as “the consensus candidate,” Pitts said he had been “inundated with calls over the last five days” from House members seeking a candidate who would work both sides of the aisle and do so without the “arm twisting” he and others allege occurred under Craddick’s leadership.

“I would never insist or twist arms or intimidate members to vote against their district,” Pitts said Thursday, standing beside his son Ryan, 20. “I will go out and help 150 members get re-elected whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.”

If you want to know where that fear of Craddick comes from, it’s in the strong challenges that various members have faced over the past couple of cycles, in particular in Republican primaries. Unfortunately for him, a few too many people have survived them, and now know that they don’t have to be afraid.

And of course there’s a bunch of freshmen this session – Democrats who need only follow Senfronia Thompson’s lead, and Republicans who may or may not have any reason to feel a kinship with Craddick. Some of those Republican freshmen will have a really tough decision to make, and they’ll be making it without really knowing the players involved. I don’t envy them the task.

In the Take It For What It’s Worth department, I’m hearing that there’s some real ugliness looming on the horizon for the speaker’s race. If what I’m hearing is accurate, look for things to get personal and nasty very soon.

Other takes:

Burka looks at the Craddick defectors and the Dems who still remain in his camp. I’ll address two of those people, and make a more general point. I’m hearing that Chuck Hopson is with McCall, so he’s another person that Craddick may be counting on that he shouldn’t be. As for Aaron Pena, I join Burka in wishing that Pena would address this matter on his blog. I hate to call someone out in this fashion, but one thing about blogging is that people will come to expect you to talk about certain topics. I don’t doubt that this is as hard for Pena as it is for many others, but this is one of those topics that he needs to address. I sympathize with the spot he may be in, but as long as he’s on Craddick’s list, even as meaningless as that list may turn out to be, people will wonder about it.

That said, getting to my more general point, I think if Craddick ultimately loses most of those folks will wind up supporting the winner. It may be simply a matter of knowing which way the wind is blowing and not wanting to go down with the ship, but I’ll be very surprised if there’s more than a handful of Dems stick with Craddick in a losing effort.

McBlogger and Vince are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the challenge to Craddick. I see where Vince is coming from, but I’m with McB. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to risk being thrown for a loss. It’s increasingly hard to sympathize with the Craddick Dems.

BOR is calling out several of those Dems, especially Austin Rep. Dawnna Dukes. Dukes, sadly, has other things in her track record to worry about. Supporting Craddick may be the backbreaker, but she didn’t get into that position by happenstance. As for the rest of BOR’s list of potential primary targets, for better or worse I don’t see Sylvester Turner as being in any real danger. I think Burka has the right take on him. Turner is very good at what he does, and he’ll do what’s best for him. Remember my general point above? Think Sylvester Turner as you read that. Kevin Bailey, on the other hand, needs to watch his posterior.

South Texas Chisme is keeping score in the Valley. Have I mentioned that calling your own Rep and asking him or her to support Brian McCall is a good idea? Yes, I think I have.

Sal Costello says that Jim Pitts would oppose the Trans Texas Corridor.

Muse reads Rep. Leo Berman’s email and says he’s making a very serious charge. She has the relevant law pertaining to the Speaker’s race and explains what she means by that.

UPDATE: DallasBlog says Pitts’ candidacy is going nowhere. Bay Area Houston airs grievances against Craddick.

UPDATE: Rep. Pena weighs in.

UPDATE: More from Easter Lemming, who fills in what I left blank regarding the nastiness, and Hal.

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  1. Jeb says:

    One of the key points in the Statesman article was that 21 of the members who had provided Craddick with pledges in November hadn’t returned his calls this week.

  2. Scott S. Floyd says:

    When you start taking Berman as someone credible, then I have to question that person’s state of mind. Leo never responds politely to anyone except those that support him and his wild ideas. He is convinced that Perry is a god and has no motives other than positive ones. Is it odd that he would feel the same about Craddick? I hope Leo gets buried on the trash committee after the new speaker takes his/her position. Since he fails to vote his district, his committee assignment makes no difference.

  3. TexasLiberal says:

    I’m not certain why we are reduced to favoring one Republican over another for the Speaker’s post. It seems like we are whipped. When Democrats take back the House will be sharing power with Republicans? It’s like we expect some magic back door to open and we will gain power that voters intended for Republicans when they elected a Republican majority last month. Thank you.

  4. I’m not certain why we are reduced to favoring one Republican over another for the Speaker’s post.

    Because Republicans have a majority in the House. Sometimes these things are pretty simple.

  5. TexasLiberal says:

    So when Democrats take back the House we will be sharing power with Republicans? It seems sometimes that all Texas Democrats can imagine is different shades of defeat. Thank you.