Speaker for Life!

Austin insiders believe Tom Craddick won’t be reelected to lead the House in January 2009. I wouldn’t bet against him.

It was kind of like I didn’t exist,” Tom Craddick told me when I asked him what it was like to come to the House of Representatives as a 25-year-old Republican from Midland in 1969. He was isolated from his colleagues by age (“I bet the average age of the members today is fifteen years younger than it was then”), by how he spent his spare time (“They socialized at the Citadel Club; I built two car washes”), and most of all, by political party. Craddick was one of only 8 Republicans in the 150-member House. Gus Mutscher, the Democratic Speaker, appointed Craddick to the Committee on Enrolled and Engrossed Bills, a gulag for members who were out of favor. “I don’t think we ever had a meeting,” Craddick says. When Craddick ran for reelection, Mutscher took out a full-page ad in the Midland paper, citing him as the reason why the University of Texas’ new Permian Basin campus was ticketed for Odessa instead of Midland and urging voters to elect his Democratic opponent.”

This is how I began my March 2003 column (“ Mr. Speaker”) about the new Speaker of the House. The interview had taken place in January, early in the session, before the trouble started. Crad­dick was in a genial mood that day, mild-mannered and charming, which was the guy I had come to know. He was the hero of the Republicans, not just in Austin but across the state: the commander who had besieged and captured the speakership, the only stronghold in state government that remained in Democratic hands. “The walls

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