Naked City

Burnam Says No to Craddick

As the House voting board steadily filled up Tuesday with 149 green "Ayes," only a single red "No" denied Midland's Tom Craddick the honor of being elected by acclamation as the first Republican speaker of the Texas House since 1870. That red light belonged to Fort Worth Democrat Lon Burnam, and it certainly stood out amid the carnivalesque atmosphere of celebration on the House floor, crowded past capacity with members, families, friends, and onlookers. Asked later why he had not joined with his Democratic colleagues in voting for Craddick (as GOP members had, traditionally, voted in Democratic speakers by acclamation), Burnam said bluntly, "Ethics."

"Yours or his?" asked a reporter. "Both," responded Burnam.

Burnam told Naked City that he simply could not support Craddick because he has "a voting record that would make Trent Lott proud," referring primarily to Craddick's long opposition to a state holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. He also called attention to recent allegations of Craddick's conflicts of interest on prior legislation, adding, "The press is largely giving him a free ride -- the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is the only major media outlet even trying to vet his record."

Burnam continued, "Craddick's been a constant part of the consistent right-wing coalition over the years, that is now ruling the House." Asked if he thought his solitary dissent would prevent progress on his own legislative agenda, Burnam said, "My primary agenda is low-income children in my district, and the Republican leadership has already made it clear those interests are not a priority. You've heard of women and children first -- their version is 'Women and children overboard first.'"

Burnam said everything he has heard about the budget priorities of the new Capitol leadership indicate that Medicaid and Health and Human Services will be the first targets for cuts. He concluded, "They're going to balance the budget on the backs of women and children, and I simply had to indicate my dissent, as one voice of conscience."

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