Saturday, December 23, 2006

Is The Texas House Speaker's Race Still Open ?

Right after the election, most people thought Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick [R-Midland] was a shoo-in for re-election to his post in the House. Speaker Craddick bragged of having over 100 signed pledge cards of support from members of the Texas House. Only one House member, Rep. Sefronia Thompson [D-Houston], has made it known publicly that she is running against Craddick, and most people think she has no chance to unseat him.

But now the dynamic of the Speaker's race seems to be changing a bit. Many members are not saying who they will vote for, and those pledge cards are not binding on the House members. It looks like many members want to wait and see if enough support comes together for a candidate that could unseat Craddick.

It's understandable that members would not want to make their opposition public yet. Craddick is known for punishing House members who oppose him. A member who votes against him could lose a choice committee seat, or find that a bill he introduced has no chance of coming up for a vote. That is how he got the signed pledge cards in the first place.

But there are now murmurs of opposition, and some names of other possible contenders are coming out -- names such as Rep. Robert Talton [R-Pasadena] or Rep. Brian McCall [R-Plano].

Perhaps most interesting is a proposal by Rep. Tommy Merritt [R-Longview]. Merritt wants to change the rules, and allow House members to choose a Speaker by secret ballot. This is an excellent idea and should be done.

If the Speaker was chosen by secret ballot, then members could vote for the best candidate instead of the one they fear. But Craddick will fight the secret ballot -- he knows he would be defeated in a heartbeat if he could no longer threaten the other House members.

I still think Craddick is the probable winner, especially with the system that is in place. But I hope for a better outcome.

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