Squeaker of the House

The Democrats’ surge on Election Day may be just enough to imperil Tom Craddick.

SO TEXAS HAS A DEMOCRATIC party after all, and no matter what you’re hearing about who signed what pledge card, the Legislature may have a Speaker’s race. With many of their own incumbents facing tough races for reelection and no party apparatus to help them, the D’s had every reason to dread election night (and, indeed, the top of their ticket got clobbered). Meanwhile, the R’s had cranked up their fund-raising machinery to pour enormous sums into key races. Improbably, at the bottom of the ballot, at least, Texas Democrats replicated the feat of their brethren in Congress. Every Democratic incumbent won, and the party captured five seats held by Republicans. It is too bad that Ann Richards didn’t live to see it; this was the first good election night for the state’s onetime majority party since she won the governorship sixteen years ago. It was not a good night, however, for Tom Craddick. Democrats have been itching to knock the Midland Republican out of the speakership ever since he did the same to Pete Laney in 2003. But they can’t do it without Republican votes; even after losing those five seats, the R’s still have an 81–69 majority in the House. Both sides figure that the D’s can deliver at least 50, possibly 60, votes for a middle-of-the-road GOP Speaker. Can Republicans deliver the remainder needed to get to 76 votes, a bare majority? This is not the kind of thing anybody will talk about openly; the walls have knives. But you’d better believe they’re talking about it privately—as you read this.

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