Bulletproof Tom, Bulletproof No More

How secure is Speaker Craddick?

Now never let it be said that we at Chronic towers are prone to tittle-tattle, but a rumor floated around the corridors of the House last week that Speaker Tom Craddick's days with the gavel could be numbered.

Let's put this into context: As the session winds down, and everyone at the Lege gets more tired and cranky and wrapped up in the madness of the process, crazy rumors gain improbable footholds. This one, floating around at the back end of the week, had heavy-hitters within his own party organizing a vote to remove the current speaker from office before the end of the session. Yeah, crazy talk, since the last successful coup d'etat (if we're recollecting right) was when they kicked out Gus Mutscher in 1971, and he resigned before he could be pushed.

However, Craddick was having an equally unprecedentedly awful week anyway: Last Monday he was accused of giving preferential treatment to the bills. By Tuesday, his rulings were overturned, meaning one thing - his authority was fractured. And what is a speaker without authority? No wonder there were rumors that he would be replaced immediately with someone with some, ahem, clout.

Does this rumor have any credibility? Probably not. But then again, it's interesting to note that by Wednesday, Craddick buddy Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, was telling the press that the speaker was safe from all challenges.

Of course, this wouldn't be an issue if state reps didn't have to see Smilin' Tom's ever-happy mug until the next regular session in 2009 - or at least the 2008 elections. But, then again, Gov. Rick Perry is a man who never met a special session he didn't like and has already made dark rumblings about not liking the transport bills on his desk.

Craddick may have fought off Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, for his beloved speaker's chair, but the mere fact that he was challengeable broke his magic aura of invincibility. Whether there's any truth to it or not, the rumor of a challenge just shows that, if it comes down to another speaker race next session, Craddick may not win so handily.

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