“We need a new direction in the Texas House because the status quo means gridlock, and we cannot afford gridlock with the issues staring us down in the upcoming session,” said Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, who declared his candidacy Monday.
Gattis, a former committee vice-chairman under Craddick, said a bipartisan leadership style is needed now that the Republicans hold a thin advantage in the House. The Democrats’ election gains last month left House Republicans with just a 76-74 edge. By contrast, Craddick was elected speaker in 2003 when the Republicans controlled 88 seats.
“He doesn’t have the members behind him well enough for him to be able to lead a 76-74 House,” Gattis said.
Several Craddick supporters — including Rep. Mike Hamilton, R-Mauriceville; Rep Patricia Harless, R-Spring; and Rep Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham — have switched sides and are now backing Gattis.
“It’s pretty evident that Tom doesn’t have the votes,” Hamilton said.
That’s three more Republicans who have at least expressed a willingness to vote for somebody other than Craddick for Speaker. The Statesman, which notes that current Craddick supporter John Smithee of Amarillo is also contemplating a run for Speaker, adds it up and says there’s 79 (or 80, if you count Smithee), anti-Craddick votes. Burka notes that it’s a bit more complicated than that.
[E]vents may have overtaken the Democrat-ABC coalition that has 75 votes against Craddick. Gattis’s candidacy for speaker provides members with a chance to realign in coalitions FOR someone instead of merely against. Suddenly the timing is off for the ABCs. Their announcement of a candidate won’t come until the end of the week, and in the meantime Gattis can be adding to his list of supporters.
In the meantime, both the Morning News and the El Paso Times note that at least one Democrat on the list of 64, El Paso’s Rep. Chente Quintanilla, had only just recently said that he hadn’t ruled out a vote for Craddick, so that list may not be rock solid. On the other hand, while Team Craddick is busy denying the claim of majority support against him and making their own claims about having 70+ supporters (not a majority, you’ll note), they haven’t made any lists public. I’ll say again, if this were a retention vote, Craddick would lose. But until there’s one consensus candidate to oppose him, he hasn’t lost anything yet. I feel we’re getting closer to that point, but that’s not good enough. One opponent plus 75 more votes for that person, that’s what I want to see.
UPDATE: From Rep. Aaron Pena on Twitter:
The Speaker’s race appears to have narrowed to a few candidates. The end is in sight. Look for the smoke from the Sistine Chapel in days.
Pena was a Craddick supporter in 2007, and was not on the list of 64. Make of that what you will.
UPDATE: And Burka says the next Speaker will be Smithee, Gattis, or Burt Solomons. Does that count as white smoke?