Tom Craddick will take his case for why should be reelected speaker–and why he is justified in ruling that the House cannot remove him from his post–to the hinterlands, or at least the hinterlands currently represented by his political opponents. He was scheduled to address the Northeast Tarrant County Republican Men’s Club, which meets in Todd Smith’s district, in September. Smith was among the Republicans who voted for the Geren amendment to keep the ballots secret until after committee appointments had been named. This proposition was, in effect, the proxy vote for speaker.
However, the Northeast Tarrant County men’s club event has been canceled; instead, Craddick will speak to a group of Republican clubs before the special election to fill the seat left vacant by Anna Mowery’s retirement. One of the candidates for the seat is Bob Leonard, a former member, who so far has declined to sign a pledge card for Craddick.
Craddick’s decision to get involved in speaking may have been a response to Smith’s presentation at the June meeting of the men’s club, which I heard about from one of the insurgent Republicans and subsequently discussed with Smith. He had prepared what he described to me as a “routine end-of-the-session wrap-up,” but when he arrived, he was asked to address the hullabaloo surrounding Craddick at the end of the session. I gathered from the insurgent’s report that there was some tension surrounding this request. Smith told me that he simply explained why he had supported Jim Pitts for speaker over Craddick last January: “It wasn’t personal. We had the chance to elect someone from our part of the state, instead of another speaker from West Texas, and I thought that was important for our region.” Smith went on to outline the reasons why Craddick had lost support among the membership: “power was too centralized,” “too much special interest influence,” and “the rapid loss of our majority.” The audience, Smith said, broke into spontaneous applause.
Smith told me that telephone calls had been made into his district seeking a Republican primary opponent for him, one to a local elected official and one to a justice of the peace, both of whom called Smith to tell him about the calls and both of whom said they weren’t running. Subsequently, Smith told me, he has been endorsed by “almost every Republican precinct chairman” and by “every Republican elected official” in the district.”
Some readers will take Craddick’s taking to the stump as a sign of weakness. That would be foolish. Craddick will make a good case for himself. He can say that the rules are clear that that “[T]here is no appeal from the speaker’s recognition.” He can call his opponents “disgruntled.” He can say that Republicans who oppose him risk turning the House over to the real enemy, the Democrats. He can say that the House should spend its time doing the people’s business, not fighting over politics. He can say that before the backstabbing started, the House had passed good conservative legislation: cutting taxes, passing tort reform, banning gay marriage. But he may not be able to say it without a rebuttal, because the likelihood is that some of the insurgents will show up as a “truth squad.”
Meanwhile, the speaker’s race continues. Officially, Craddick is for Republican incumbents. Unofficially? Well, a lot is going on. The talk is that Linda Harper-Brown, sweetheart that she is — remember the letter she and four other members signed last year endorsing Charlie Geren’s Republican primary opponent — is trying to recruit a primary opponent for Kirk England [See clarification posted on 9/3]. In Houston, Senator Dan Patrick, with help, if that is the word for it, from Debbie Riddle, is taking after Corbin van Arsdale for reasons unrelated to the speaker’s race. The targeting of England seems particularly short-sighted. England only won his seat by a little over 200 votes last time against a Democrat who didn’t get any help from the party. If he has a bloody primary, the Democrats could win the seat.
This is only the beginning.