Speaker Up

TEXAS MONTHLY asked each of the candidates for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives to submit statements on why they think they should hold the highly coveted gavel. Here’s what they had to say.

Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland:

The Texas House of Representatives can point to many accomplishments since I was elected Speaker. We passed tort reform legislation that lowered medical malpractice insurance costs and attracted more doctors to Texas. We passed business tax reforms to lower property taxes and increase the state’s share in paying for education.

When I became Speaker, we faced a $10 billion deficit, which in five short years we turned into a $14 billion surplus. We did this without raising taxes, and we continue to have a surplus despite difficult economic times. These have all been contentious issues, and many members have strong feelings about what we have accomplished—but our actions reflect the will of most Texans.

I have continued a tradition of a bipartisan legislature. I have given record numbers of minorities and women positions of power, and I have done my best to allow the will of the House to prevail.

With nearly equal parity between the political parties in the House, I understand the need for us to seek a consensus on the major issues facing the eighty-first legislature. The House needs experienced leadership now more than ever, and I strongly believe I am the best person for the job.

Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine:

I am running for Speaker of the House because I believe (1) the most important thing a member of the House has is his or her vote; and (2) the House works most effectively when the entire body is engaged in thoughtful deliberation rather than merely acting as a rubber stamp for an autocratic Speaker.

Over the past few sessions, the term “owner’s box” has been used to apply to a small section of the gallery where the Speaker’s mega-donors and lobbyists sit to watch and sometimes direct proceedings on the House floor. I am running for Speaker of the House because the “owner’s box” should have but one set of owners: the people of Texas.

A member of the Texas House should be allowed to exercise his or her own discretion when deciding on public policy. Members with certain key talents and expertise should be allowed to lead—rather than languish in exile because their opinion is different from the leadership’s opinion. Legislation should be written by committees and improved by floor action—not dictated on high by instructions from the Speaker’s office.

The Speaker should be but the first among equals. Power should be dispersed through the membership—not consolidated in the Speaker’s office. Committee chairs must be allowed to work with their members to come up with ideas, and they must have the latitude needed to negotiate effectively.

The Speaker’s job is to serve the members—not the other way around. Unfortunately, the current Speaker has not hesitated to sacrifice individual members if it served his political interests. This is a huge disservice to members. And the citizens of Texas are disenfranchised when a Speaker treats the public’s representatives like they are his private employees he can hire, fire, reward, or punish on a whim.

For the past six years, the people’s interest has taken a back seat to special interests, as these mega-donors and lobbyists have exercised undue influence on both public policy and the political process. Members of the House are routinely forced to cast votes that are not in the best interests of the State of Texas or the constituents they serve. It is because of this that a 26-vote Republican majority has been whittled down to a slim 2-vote margin.

The House floor should be a place where good ideas are made better, and the best idea wins—regardless of whose idea it was. No results should be preordained. Members will be asked only to represent their districts and vote their conscience. By allowing members to act, unhindered by partisanship, mandates from the Speaker’s office, or undue influence from special interests, the people of Texas will be the real winners. The Texas House will once again be a place where talent, ability, and work ethic are rewarded rather than punished.

Further, the rules of procedure used in the Texas House should matter. Rules are incredibly important and should be applied fairly and consistently. They should not be manipulated to implement a preordained conclusion. Rules protect the majority, they protect the minority, and they protect the electorate. Rules are not made to be broken—they are meant to be followed.

When I look into the eyes of my son, I see hope and a bright future. I know that those of us honored to serve in the Texas House can make the hopes and dreams of Texas families come true if only we can rise above the selfishness and petty politics of the past.

I never expected to have the honor of serving in the Texas House. My service has taught me to love and appreciate the institution of the House, and I want to see it flourish again. I want it to again be a place where representatives from every district across Texas can realize their potential, serve their constituents, and contribute to our incredible democracy.

I love Texas and want it to be better—that’s why I am running for Speaker.

Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston:

If I have the honor of becoming Speaker of the Texas House, here’s how I would want to be graded:

1) Did I listen to members, or did I spend all my time telling them what I think? A successful Speaker listens, and even learns a thing or two.

2) Did I give members the fullest opportunity to represent their districts and lead our state, including senior members and freshmen, “ins” and “outs,” friends and foes? Representing one’s district means different things to different members (see number one). It may mean taking a leadership role on a committee that a member’s constituents care about, having the opportunity to help craft the budget, or for some, excelling at killing bills that their constituents oppose. At minimum, it means that everyone has access to the front mike to present their agenda if they can convince the relevant committees and

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