November 06, 2008
The Speaker's race is officially underway

No rest for the political junkie around here, as the race for Speaker of the Texas House gets going.

A new race for Texas House speaker kicked off late on Election Night with a growing cast of candidates and anyone's guess as to the outcome.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, won't surrender without a fight, however, which virtually guarantees another tussle for the top leadership spot.

"The Republicans have maintained the majority in the House, and as long as the Republicans have the majority, we are confident that the speaker will remain speaker," Craddick spokeswoman Alexis DeLee said Wednesday.

That's actually not a settled question, as Rep. Linda Harper-Brown's 29-vote margin in HD105 may shrink as provisional and absentee votes get counted, to be followed for sure by a demand for a recount. I think it's unlikely Bob Romano will prevail, even with such a small deficit to close, but it's not impossible. And if that happens, God only knows what kind of pandemonium may break out.

A recount could take weeks, which leaves the final House margin up in the air. Republicans will either have a slim 76-74 advantage, or the chamber will be deadlocked, 75-75.

Craddick barely survived two challenges to his leadership last year when he had an 81-69 majority.

"You can stick a fork in Tom Craddick. It's over," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, the day after the election.

With all due respect to Rep. Dunnam, I agree with Vince and to a slightly lesser extent with Burka. It's not the R/D margin that matters so much as whether or not there's a genuine consensus candidate to oppose Craddick. Right now, there's a bunch of hopefuls and a lot of ways this could play out, but nobody wants to be on the losing team. If the Craddick Ds (sorry, not quite ready to retire the term just yet) can be enticed to abandon him - at least everyone is trying to play nice with them for now - and if a minority of Republicans can stand the idea of electing a Speaker with majority Democratic support, then maybe they can all coalesce around someone. And with all due respect to the various Democratic hopefuls, that someone just about has to be a Republican, at least as long as they are the majority. If the numbers were reversed, I'd say it had to be a Democrat, so this is only fair. If it winds up a tie, then let the best person win.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, four Republicans, including Craddick, and four Democrats had filed candidacies for speaker. The chamber's 150 members will choose their leader in January.

Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, jumped into the speaker's race after the election results. He supports private balloting to prevent retaliation for voting against the winner and a ban on incumbent speakers soliciting pledge cards.

"Our schools are failing our children, everything from insurance rates to electric bills to prison expenses to budget growth is quickly getting out of hand. And what has our speaker's answer been? 'Ignore the problems. Keep me in power at all costs. Forget the rules. I know best.' Well, no more," Merritt said.

Other GOP speaker candidates are Delwin Jones of Lubbock and Jim Keffer of Eastland.

Democrats officially in the running: Pete Gallego of Alpine, Allan Ritter of Nederland and Senfronia Thompson and Sylvester Turner, both of Houston.

You can add Scott Hochberg to that list as well. I've touted Senfronia Thompson before, and I still believe she should be first in line if it's a Democrat's time to be Speaker again. But you can't go wrong with Hochberg or Gallego, either, and frankly any of Keffer, Merritt, or Jones would be fine, too, if it must be a Republican. Please, y'all, pick one, settle behind him or her, and bring the reign of Craddick to an end. We deserve better. BOR has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 06, 2008 to Election 2008
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