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From 109 to 83 to ???: The Craddick Defectors

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Based on the list of pledges in the Quorum Report, here are the members who were on Tom Craddick’s list of 109 pledges as of November 8 but not on his list of 83 pledges as of December 28:

Republicans (13 defectors)
Charlie Geren
Pat Haggerty
Bryan Hughes
Delwin Jones
Edmund Kuempel
Thomas Latham
Jodie Laubenberg
Brian McCall
Ken Paxton
Jim Pitts
Debbie Riddle
Todd Smith
Robert Talton

Of this group, Haggerty, Jones, Kuempel, and McCall are former Pete Laney committee chairs and longtime ABCs. Not only did Craddick treat them as outcasts; he also (it is widely believed) was behind primary challenges of Kuempel and McCall, his potential rivals for power, in 2002, and of Haggerty, Geren, and Jones last spring. Hughes is a trial lawyer who, as a freshman during the 2003 tort reform fight, received a public dressing down at the podium for voting contrary to Craddick’s threats, er, wishes. Talton is also a trial lawyer. He, Laubenberg, and Riddle are strong conservatives who voted against the new business tax. Smith, an active advocate for public schools during the Laney speakership, was removed from the Public Education committee by Craddick. Latham, a freshman who defeated Elvira Reyna, is married to a teacher. Paxton is close to McCall. Pitts suffered numerous indignities under Craddick, including a mole on the Appropriations committee who tattled to Craddick about Pitts’ intentions, and being forced to get the speaker’s approval for staff hires. This is what happens when a speaker forgets that he works for the members.

Democrats (13 defectors)
Robby Cook
Craig Eiland
David Farabee
Stephen Frost
Mark Homer
Eddie Lucio III
Jim McReynolds
Jose Menendez
Joe Pickett
Chente Quintinilla
Allan Ritter
Mike Villareal
Hubert Vo

Cook, Farabee, Homer, and McReynolds are WD-40s whose pledges to Craddick and votes for issues like tort reform did not protect them from major Republican opposition this fall. Quintinilla, as a freshman in 2003, was threatened with the loss of funding for the El Paso medical school if he didn’t vote with Craddick. Pickett, also from El Paso, not only had to endure medical school politics, but also was removed from the Transportation Committee, his area of expertise, by Craddick. For the other defectors, it was nothing personal, strictly business. All the Democrats who were pledged to Craddick were under pressure from the Dunnam/Gallego/Coleman caucus leadership, and with Craddick clearly weakened, they faced what amounted to a career choice. I was most surprised by Ritter’s decision to defect; were he not from Jefferson County, he could easily be a Republican. For Villareal, who worked closely with Republicans on Ways and Means, this was probably the last chance to reestablish his Democratic credentials before becoming an outcast in his party. Lucio III proved to be an apple that didn’t fall far from the tree; he reneged on his pledge before taking the oath of office.

Here is the list of the Democrats (17) who chose to remain with Craddick.

Kevin Bailey
Norma Chavez
Joe Deshotel
Dawnna Dukes
Harold Dutton
Kino Flores
Helen Giddings
Ryan Guillen
Chuck Hopson
Tracy King
Armando Martinez
Ruth Jones McClendon
Aaron Pena
Robert Puente
Richard Raymond
Patrick Rose
Sylvester Turner

The question here is, How many people on this list are willing to go down with the Good Ship Craddick, if indeed the iceberg has ripped a hole below the water line? This is pretty much a pure guess, but I’d say Chavez (a grass roots politician who has little to fear from a primary challenge), Flores (too hot to handle by a successful challenger to Craddick, if there is one), Giddings (closely aligned with Turner), King (still smarting from Gallego’s threats), McClendon (has a coveted position on Sunset), Puente (if he’s willing to fall on his sword for Craddick by challenging Gallego for leader of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, he’ll stick), Turner (skillful enough to survive and be a force under any speaker; no one wants him on the outside of the tent pissing in).

Question of the day: Why didn’t my fellow blogger Aaron Pena write yesterday (Thursday) about why he’s sticking with Craddick?

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