May 15, 2007
The state of the Speaker's race

So do we have a real anti-Speaker insurgency in the House or is it just noise? "Maybe," says the Chron.

One anti-Craddick faction includes the dissident Democrats and Republicans in the House minority who tried unsuccessfully to unseat him in January and have been at odds with the speaker all session.

Now, there also is an emerging group of Craddick "loyalists," including some committee chairmen, who want a change before the session ends May 28, said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, a longtime Craddick critic.

Still, Coleman said the odds of successfully unseating Craddick with a rare motion to vacate the chair were no better than "50-50."

"There are more than 76 House members (a majority) who want a new speaker. There are not 76 votes for any one person (successor) at this point," Coleman said.

But conservative grass-roots activists are concerned enough to contact Republican House members on the speaker's behalf. And Craddick was meeting privately with some legislators to reaffirm his support.

"There is a strong effort on the part of Democrats to make this (leadership change) happen, and a strong effort on the part of some Republicans," said Rep. Fred Hill, R-Richardson.

"Republicans have to decide whether they want to be a party to something that removes the first Republican speaker in (modern times), and that's a big hurdle," he added.

Hill, chairman of the House Local Government Ways and Means Committee, said he hasn't decided what he will do if the potential challenge, which is creating a stir among House members, comes to a head.

Craddick, he added, has maintained most of the control of the House in his own hands but has given little clout to his chairmen, his "middle management" team.

"Maybe," says the Morning News.

"The movement has attracted some people that would surprise you," said Local Ways and Means Chairman Fred Hill, R-Richardson. "It surprised me."

Asked whether it would happen Monday, another GOP leader said: "We don't have our act together just yet. ... There's a lot to be worked out still."

But to hear many House members tell it, it's a matter of when, not if. That would be a surprising downfall for a man who has ruled the chamber with absolute authority since 2003, when he earned the job he toiled three decades in the House to get.


Mr. Craddick has a lot working in his favor. Timing, for one - lawmakers still have bills they want to get passed, and the legislative process could grind to a halt if the House descends into a leadership void. Plus, the speaker sits on a massive campaign war chest that he could use to reward supporters - or punish coup leaders.

But plenty of people say a showdown is coming.

"Someone's going to make the motion, yes," to unseat the speaker, said a GOP committee chairman standing strongly with Mr. Craddick. "What do the Democrats have to lose?"

Asked whether they would prevail, though, he paused - the strength of his conviction (or lack thereof) apparent in his choice of words: "If I were a betting man, I'd say - probably not."

"Maybe not," says Burka.

Yesterday was a bad day for the insurgency. It's one thing to have a floor strategy of parliamentary maneuvers designed to loosen Tom Craddick's hold on the speakership, and it's quite another to pull together a disparite group of disgruntled members into a united front capable of bringing him down. No one appears to be capable of doing the latter. Consequently, the movement to oust Craddick from the chair has lost its focus. Instead of concentrating on how to achieve their objective, the plotters have fallen out among themselves over who should be the next speaker. Keffer, McCall, Pitts, and Talton all have their adherents and their critics. Geren says he's out.

Burka goes on to criticize BOR for these two posts that call out Jim Keffer for being a Craddick in sheep's clothing, and concludes:

The insurgents's point of view ought to be, ANYBODY is an improvement over Craddick. Any other attitude guarantees failure. Worries about Keffer or anybody else are premature. Keffer is a Republican. It should not come as a shock that he votes like a Republican. The issue--about Keffer, about all the wannabes--ought not be how he votes, but whether he has enough of a following to defeat Tom Craddick. The right questions to ask about the speaker hopefuls are: Can he win? How he would run the House? Would he make fair committee appointments? Would he make fair parliamentary rulings?

While I agree with Burka that these are the right questions to ask, I don't see why looking at Keffer's (or anyone else's) record is a bad way of trying to answer those questions. Nor do I see why it's unreasonable to conclude that any one of the alternatives may not represent an improvement. It would be nice if everyone agreed on these things, and for sure any arguing among the rebels weakens their cause, but let's not lose sight of what we're fighting for.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 15, 2007 to That's our Lege