Straus to Head Craddick Challenge
Republicans and Democrats respond favorably to selection of San Antonio state rep
By Richard Whittaker,
8:00PM, Fri. Jan. 2, 2009
"The smoke's up."
That's how Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, made the announcement that the Anyone But Craddick Republicans had picked Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, as their consensus candidate to take on Speaker Tom Craddick.
So why Straus? "He's a long-time Republican, worked in the (George H.W.) Bush administration, smart, and gets along with everyone," explained Merritt. He had put his own speaker ambitions aside for Straus, but said he was "happy with the consensus."
Straus' affability and even-handedness may be the most important tool for the San Antonio Republican if he hopes to dislodge Craddick. About a dozen members from the 64 ABCDs (Anyone but Craddick Democrats, including Reps. Scott Hochberg of Houston, and Mark Strama and Valinda Bolton of Austin) were gathered for what Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, called a social gathering in his Lege office. Their response seemed positive. "He's known as a person who can bring people together" Gallego said.
"He's known as a guy that you can talk to and loves to have different points of view before deciding how to move forward" said Gallego. "I think that's all that Democrats were interested in, someone who would listen and let members participate in the process."
Gallego was also optimistic that the last few Democrats that haven't signed the ABCD pledge would get on board. He said, "We've been talking to them tonight, and we've been talking to them through the whole process. They haven't made any formal commitment, but they too breathed a sigh of relief that it was Joe."
With the withdrawal of the rest of the ABCRs (including Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano, who filed this afternoon just in time to pull out) that just leaves Craddick, Straus and Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown. If Straus has the votes he's rumored to have amongst Republicans, and the ABCDs stand firm, Craddick and Gattis could be left fighting for leadership of a conservative rump.
Of course, this all remains academic until the final tally when the session starts.