Straus in the wind: claims 76 votes
Sat January 3, 2009 9:11 pm

Gary Scharrer has posted a story in the San Antonio Express-News quoting Joe Straus as saying that he has the votes to be speaker. Here are the first three paragraphs:

Republican lawmaker Joe Straus said he has collected enough pledges from House colleagues Saturday to oust incumbent House Speaker Tom Craddick.

“We’re in good shape. We’re at 76, and we’re adding them up,” Straus said Saturday of the threshold number needed to clinch the top leadership spot. “I feel real good about our numbers.”

Straus, who emerged as the consensus candidate of 11 maverick House Republicans Friday night, planned to formally announce his victory Sunday when he hopes to have close to 90 pledges.

OK, if you say so, but it sure would be nice to see the names. I can't see the case for not doing it. The fear factor? A paper tiger. Lay out the names!

This has been an incredible day for rumors. Two of the best:

* Some of the Craddick D's have broken loose for Straus. Surely fellow San Antonian McClendon is one.

* As many as 40 R's may skip the Craddick meeting on Sunday--this from one of the ABCs, though my information is second-hand.

Here's my take on Straus: I am very impressed with how he conducts himself. He has the personal gravitas to be speaker. His critics will say that he hasn't done anything, but the fact is that he did what a very junior member is supposed to do, which is listen and learn. His decision last year to vote for a secret ballot and for Craddick as speaker was well thought out and showed political skill.

In Texas Monthly's February 2008 issue, we named Straus as one of 35 future leaders of the state--although we didn't foresee that the future might be only 11 months away. He has the Republican pedigree and the family affluence to go as far in politics as he wants to. Those Republicans who want to see their party change, to break the grip of the evangelicals and the social conservatives, should gravitate to him. He represents the future. The person he is running against represents the past. Tom Craddick has no affinity for the concerns of urban Texas.

Straus's limitations are inexperience and a life spent in the bubble of Alamo Heights. The reason Texas has always had rural speakers is that rural politicians know people from all walks of life. They know what motivates ordinary folk. They have a better feel for the game than people who live in affluent suburbs and get into politics through their churches or Republican men's clubs. I have no doubt that Straus has the intelligence to be speaker. I do wonder whether he has the political instincts--whether, as Lyndon Johnson's father once said to LBJ, he can walk in a room and know in two minutes who is for him and who is against him.

I have heard a lot of skepticism about how much knowledge of the process Straus has absorbed during his brief tenure. Speakers don't have to take a pop quiz, you know. What is the subject of Article II in the appropriations bill? Explain the 72-hour rule. What happens if a motion to reconsider and table a bill ends in a tie vote? Why are so many school districts facing insolvency? Sure, there is a lot to learn, but the pace of a legislative session is languid until that moment in early April when it dawns on everyone that they have run out of time. Straus strikes me as the kind of person who has been doing his homework since he got here.

The odd man out here is Smithee. His timing was off. Had he come out for speaker before the ABCs meeting, he would have snapped up the uncommitted Rs and perhaps made some inroads among the Democrats. But the ABCs meeting preempted him. As much as Smithee is respected, I think he would have had a hard time getting Democratic votes. Too rural.

If Craddick is going to be competitive, he needs more Republicans. Where is he going to get them? The momentum has been in the other direction. I can't see the Gattis four crawling back. I can't see Smithee returning to the fold. Chisum has a smile on his face and a dagger in his hand. Too few Republicans think Craddick can still win, and I don't think he can peel off enough Democrats. But he'll try to the last breath.

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...

Most Read

  • Viewed
  • Past:
  • 1 week