The Education of Tom Craddick
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In the February issue of Texas Monthly, which celebrates the magazine’s fortieth anniversary, Representative Tom Craddick (R-Midland) talked about how Austin and the Capitol have changed in the past four decades for lawmakers. He should know. Craddick, who was first elected in 1968, has been around even longer than the magazine. And, as House Speaker Joe Straus, in announcing his committees for the 83rd Legislature pointed out, Craddick “has served in almost a quarter of the meetings of the Texas House of Representatives since statehood in 1845.” (A bit of trivia: Craddick will need to be elected to one more term to set the all-time record for service in the Legislature. That honor belongs to A.M. Aikin, Jr., a Democrat from Paris who served in the House and Senate almost 46 years, from 1933-1979.)
Craddick talked about dinners at the Magic Time Machine, fish frys with the beer lobbyist Buck Buchanan, and living with seven other members, all of whom were Democrats. But one story that the issue didn’t have room for was about filing his first bill, which demonstrates, as much as anything, how the Lege truly has changed:
During my first session, in 1969, my district needed a district court. That doesn’t sound like a big deal today, but back then, Republicans did not introduce bills. In those days you used to walk to the front to clerk’s table, so I went up to file my bill, and it was kind of quiet. They looked at me, and then they looked up at the speaker [Gus Mutscher], and they were like, “What do we do with this?”
One of the clerks said to me, “I think you need to talk to someone to have this filed.” I think it was shocking to them that I had actually introduced a bill as a Republican. Now, I’m not very smart, but I am smart enough to figure this out in about thirteen seconds, so I went and got my roommates—my Democratic roommates—to sign on to my bill, and so when the bill got to the floor to be voted on, they all came to the front to help me pass it. It worked out great, but I needed all the help I could get back then.