I spoke with Fred Hill today about his decision to retire from the Legislature. He was in northern Montana, and the temperature was 55 degrees, and he didn’t sound like a man with a lot of regrets. “I sold my business in July,” he said, “and that really changed the dynamics of my life.”

I asked him if he had heard about anyone planning to run against him. “There’s always some talk,” he said, “but no one one had stepped up to the plate. I hadn’t heard anything about the speaker coming into the district and trying to find an opponent for me.”

Will you talk to the people who file for your seat about the situation in the House?” I asked. “You can bet on that,” he said. “I’ll do my best to help educate them.”

Hill said he had been getting lots of calls from other members. One, who is on the speaker’s team, had lamented Craddick’s leadership style. “How many pledge cards do you think he has?” the member asked. “Sixty,” Hill had said. It was a pure guess. “I bet it’s closer to thirty,” the member said. “He doesn’t even have mine.”

Another member told him about how he had voted against Hill on a bill Craddick wanted in a previous session. “You were right, and I will vote your way if it comes up, because I’m vested.” That comment is a window into how much members fear Craddick (in case there was any doubt).

“One more thing,” Hill said. “I was a strong supporter of Tom Craddick for many years. What I would have been doing, if I had been in his shoes, was trying to mend some fences, to reach out to people, especially the people who had been part of his team. The last time I spoke to him was from the back mike, when I asked him to step aside. He has never spoken to me again.”