The Speaker’s Race

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First, here is Warren Chisum’s letter to colleagues: REPRESENTATIVE WARREN CHISUM Candidate for Speaker of the Texas House October 13, 2010 Dear Colleagues, Today I throw my hat, my experience, and my commitment to the House into the ring for consideration as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. Those of you who know me, know that this is not a decision I have entered into lightly, but like many of you I have come to realize that the time has come for us to unite behind a speaker that will lead the Texas House next session as we face our state’s many challenges together. The times demand a strong and decisive leader. The Texas House has enjoyed strong, experienced leadership under Speakers Laney and Craddick, who were fully supported by majorities of their respective political parties. Sadly, recent history has shown us that when a chamber’s leadership does not enjoy majority support from his own party mixed with good support from the opposition party, his leadership is weak and ineffective. As a candidate for Speaker of the House, I will give Republicans and Democrats an opportunity to decide whether the Texas House wants to lead this session, or whether it doesn’t. Since 1989, I have served with you, lead with you, fought in the trenches with you, and submitted myself to the leadership of the speaker we all elected. You know my character, my trustworthiness, my fairness, and my faithfulness to conservative principles. In January, we will be facing the most difficult session Texas has ever faced. Together, we must find a way to appropriately fund the state’s obligations while not raising taxes. This can only be done by reducing government budgets, a fight I have fought before, and won. The budget is only one of our challenges; we must also face the contention that redistricting brings. I have served with you during the last three redistricting sessions, and know how to fairly navigate those treacherous waters while continuing the other serious business the House must complete for a successful session. In deciding to run for Speaker of the House, I heavily weighed the experience of last session with the demands of the upcoming session. In earnest, we entered the 81st session with open minds, hoping for the brand of leadership Speaker Straus had pledged. However, his approach, guided by his inexperience, instead allowed the minority party to control much of the session’s agenda, and the result was no leadership during the total breakdown in the most critical days of the session. Speaker Straus has never served on Appropriations, never served on Ways and Means, has never even faced a difficult budget cycle, much less served as a member during a redistricting session. As the 82nd Legislature approaches, Texas demands a speaker who can successfully navigate these waters. I have the experience and skill that the House requires. The vote for the Speaker is a decision made by us, by 150 individuals and whom we trust to lead us through 140 days. It is a vote about leadership, experience, and trust. I look forward to visiting with each of you soon about the challenges and opportunities ahead and how we can bridge those gaps together. Sincerely, Warren Chisum STRAUS’S RESPONSE: “My style of respectful, inclusive leadership has earned the support of the vast majority of members of the Republican caucus and the Texas House. In these critical weeks before the election, I believe my fellow Republicans should be focused on building our Republican majority in the Texas House, as I am working hard to do.” * * * * What does the Chisum’s announcement of his candidacy mean? Remember that Chisum originally said that he would wait until after the elections to announce his intentions. That he did not do so is significant. It could mean that he knows from pre-election polling that the Republicans are going to win a lot of seats, enough for a big Republican majority. I suspect that it also means that Chisum already has some Democratic pledges in his pocket to vote for him for speaker. I know he has been working on Democrats, inviting them to his ranch. The Democratic caucus — or what’s left of it — could split wide open. Dunnam may not survive as Democratic leader. If D’s are going to cross the aisle, Chisum is a lot less threatening than Craddick was. I further believe that the anti-Straus forces already have a plan in place to twist arms of uncommitted Republican members to intimidate them into supporting Chisum over Straus. I received a copy of a multicolor mailer sent out by Michael Quinn Sullivan, of Texans for Fiscal Responsibiility, who is one of the self-annointed Republican bosses. It urges Republicans on his mailing list to send postcards to Straus asking him to remove five chairmen. “Are you ready for high taxes?” the mailer asks. “There is something you can do! Let Speaker Joe Straus know you want him to give these Obama liberals the boot from his leadership team! Send a message to Joe Straus today with the enclosed postcard.” * Tell Joe Straus to drop Garnet Coleman. * Tell Joe Straus the budget process would be enhanced without Jim Pitts. *Speaker Straus needs to know Edmund Kuempel is a bad bet for keeping spending under control. * Let Speaker Straus know he needs to sinke Rene Oliveira’s tenure on Ways & Means. * Speaker Straus should drive [Joe] Pickett away from Transportation. The mailer would be laughable if it did not have so much malice behind it. Coleman and Kuempel are chairs of committees (Counties and Licensing and Regulation) that have nothing to do with the budget. Pickett is chairman of Transportation and the most knowledgeable House member about the subject. Pitts and Oliveira do chair major committees, Appropriations and Ways and Means. This is going to be a new kind of speaker’s race. If Chisum has his way, it will not be a race that is decided by the members. It will not be decided by lobbyists. It will be decided by political power brokers who are outside the Capitol, who use bullying tactics to intimidate members into voting for the candidate who represents ideological purity. If this is successful, it will become the model for future speakers’ races.

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