Who Wants to Be 'Anybody but Craddick'?
A front-runner has yet to emerge to defeat Craddick
Two years ago, when Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano, considered challenging House Speaker Tom Craddick, he was criticized by fellow Republicans for being "the Democrat candidate." Now Republican challengers to Craddick's power talk openly about bipartisanship, and the all-Democratic Austin delegation is waiting to see who emerges as the new front-runner.
While hopes of an outright Democratic speaker have faded in recent days, 64 of the 74 House Democrats have signed caucus leader Jim Dunnam's "anyone but Craddick" pledge, making them the single biggest unified voting block in the House and potential kingmakers (as Rep. Valinda Bolton puts it, "Anyone but Craddick can't be everyone but Craddick"). The problem now is waiting for the GOP to coalesce behind one candidate, hopefully a moderate. "It's on the Republican end of the field, which is why I'm not getting calls every day," said Rep. Mark Strama.
With the addition this week of Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, as of Nov. 18, 10 reps have filed speaker paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission (five Democrats and five Republicans). Three have emerged as apparent front-runners – Solomons; Jim Keffer, R-Eastland; and Tommy Merritt, R-Longview – but none seems to have pledges for the 76 votes required yet, so the backroom meetings continue without an obvious winner. "There are so many loops to be in," said Rep. Donna Howard, "that I doubt anyone is in all of them."
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez is frustrated that anyone is blaming his party for Craddick's power. "As Democrats, we have done our part," he said, pointing to indecision across the aisle. "The problem with replacing Craddick is Republicans. They can't seem to fix on anyone, and, with several candidates, if any one of them had the numbers, they would say so."
But what about the 10 Dems yet to sign Dunnam's pledge? According to Rep. Elliott Naishtat, "Since the jury is still out on what the 'Craddick Democrats' will do, the jury is still out as to whether or not Tom Craddick will be replaced as speaker." Not being on the list is not necessarily a sign of being pro-Craddick, just of cautiousness; Rep. Dawnna Dukes, often criticized for not following the anti-Craddick orthodoxy, said she's "still processing my decision" on which speaker candidate best helps her district. That doesn't mean Craddick can count on old allies: Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston, was considered a Craddick D until he announced last week that he's a "solid supporter" of fellow Houston Dem and Speaker Pro Tem Sylvester Turner.
If Craddick loses, where would he go? The expectation, Rodriguez said, is that he gets a senior committee chair. "By seniority alone, he should get that, but he shouldn't be calling the shots."