We’ve already had an exciting and eventful 2009 legislative session, and it’s still 2008. The release of the Democratic list of 64 has moved things forward, starting with an admission by Team Craddick that they really aren’t in such good shape after all.
House Appropriations Chairman Warren Chisum said his side became angry over the fact he told me House Speaker Tom Craddick is “five or six” votes short of winning re-election. Chisum is a key Craddick lieutenant in the House.
Chisum said he made his comment based on his own beliefs of where House members stand in the election. Chisum said he hasn’t seen Craddick’s list of supporters.
“They (Craddick’s close advisers) said they weren’t any shorter” after state Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, announced as a speaker candidate, Chisum said.
Chisum said without seeing the list he will have to take Craddick’s nose counters at their word.
But Chisum said with three other Craddick Republicans announcing support for Gattis it was hard from his point of view to see how Craddick could not have lost some votes. He said that is why state Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, is calling members to find out whether Craddick can win re-election.
“If Tom’s got the numbers, he’s got them. If he doesn’t, we need to know,” Chisum said.
That’s actually a much softer version of Chisum’s earlier comments, in which he estimated Craddick’s committed supporters in the 50 to 53 range. Democrats are openly pressing Craddick on this point, as witnessed by a “Dear Colleague” letter from Austin Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, who calls on Craddick to step down and let a successor emerge peacefully. I don’t think that’s going to happen, at least not without a larger number of current Craddick supporters publicly breaking ranks, but it’s out there. And for the first time, we get an indicator that Craddick himself is genuinely worried.
Over the weekend, there were some telephone calls made by Tom Craddick in which (according to the report from one of the people on the receiving end of a call) the Speaker sounded ‘worn out, tired, and despondent’ and that for the first time in several months, the Speaker was calling on others to ask them to report what that members were hearing, rather than the Speaker himself being the provider of news as to the current state of battle between the Speaker and the ABCs. It sounded like Tom Craddick for the first time in a long time, actually found himself to be somewhat out-of-the-loop and truly unaware as to who the ABCs plus the Dunnam D’s would unite their support behind on January 2nd and what it would mean to Craddick’s future it they are able to actually pull it off.
The report I received was that the Speaker felt unsure as to how best to move forward between now and January 2nd because he has no credible intelligence to suggest who the consensus candidate might be. The Speaker did discuss additional filers for Speakers coming in the next few days. Further, both Chisum and Swinford had spoken to Smithee to see if the reports they were hearing were true and Smithee responded by saying that he was indeed seriously thinking about entering the Speaker’s race. Dan Gattis’s entry on Saturday means one fewer R vote for Craddick, while Smithee getting into the race would mean the dam is getting ready to bust the flood gates wide open and that Craddick is in serious jeopardy of losing dozens of current supporters. Craddick seemed unsure how to react–a unique position for a Speaker who is always operating from a well orchestrated script.
In theory, we will all find out who that consensus candidate is early next week, at which point we can either start singing “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” or lamenting what might have been. I’m hopeful that this time the insurgency will hang together, but I’m going to maintain low expectations until it actually happens. In the meantime, enjoy what remains of 2008, and get ready to hit the ground running in the new year.
UPDATE: Chisum tells the Quorum Report that he was misquoted.
Chisum said, “Last night, I was misquoted on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram website as saying that Speaker Craddick had 53 votes. That number is a misinterpretation of what I said, and certainly not what I intended to say. The speaker carries all the Republicans except for the ABCs, and his position remains very strong.”
Make of that what you will.