One of the things I really like about blogging is that it gives readers the chance to participate. Their comments expand the discussion. Some of these writers are obviously very well informed insiders. Sometimes I respond to their posts, and the discussion expands again. This has occurred in the comments to my posting, “What Speakers Race?” and the rumors about Jim Keffer.
Why publish rumors? some may ask. The answer is that the Capitol is a small community, and most people have heard them. If I don’t believe them, I say so, and I don’t believe the Keffer rumors–at least not to the extent that he has a specific number of votes. Would he like to be speaker? Yeah, him and a hundred and forty nine others.
I’m going to publish a couple of the comments below, together with my responses. For the post that originated the discussion, see “What Speaker’s Race?” posted Friday, May 11. (The commenters were both “anonymous.”)
Anonymous #1 writes:
The rumor you mention [that Keffer has 87 votes for speaker] is not about a full-fledged Speaker’s race next session, but is instead about a plan being contemplated to move to vacate the chair in the last days of this session. There will be no need for pledge cards or official campaign filings. Jim Keffer is not coming back…unless he knows he is going to be Speaker. The rumor goes something like this: On May 24th or sooner if they can catch enough Craddick loyalists off the floor, Jim Dunnam will move to vacate the chair and will have the twenty five signatures needed to do so ready to go. All of the non-Craddick Democrats will vote for the motion and they will be joined by the Pitts/McCall/Talton “Anybody but Craddick” Republicans, as well as the likes of previous Craddick supporters Fred Hill, Dan Gattis, and John Otto. Keffer will offer himself up as the kinder, gentler alternative to Craddick who is allowing his name to be placed into nomination simply becasue he is trying to protect the institution which he believes has been almost damaged beyond repair this session. He has nothing to lose. After May 24th, his legislative agenda cannot be impacted, and he is either moving up or out. Please don’t forget that Jim Keffer was one of the last Republican hold outs who would not abandon his support for Pete Laney in 2002. Craddick threatened him with a well-funded, TRMPAC supported GOP primary opponent. Keffer finally saw the writing on the wall, feared for his political life, and relented. He pledged to Craddick, but has never forgotten how he was threatened. As they say…Revenge is a dish best served cold.
If Keffer is so bent on revenge, why didn’t he come out for McCall or Pitts in January? That would have had a huge impact, maybe the decisive impact, on the speaker’s race. Instead, he wrote a letter backing Craddick. All the wannabes are like Kay Bailey Hutchison. They’re scared to take the chance. They want to be wooed. They hope the incumbent will step down. Not a chance of that happening, unless somebody hands him a list with 85 signatures.
Gattis has great political prospects. He wants to run for the Senate. Why would he roll the dice on beating Craddick when he can stay put risk free and walk into the Senate in 2010, when Ogden is likely to retire?
Anonymous #2 writes:
What would be the benefit to Keffer in backing McCall or Pitts? Had they won, he would have still probaly have been the Ways & Means Chairman and no closer to being Speaker himself. In fact, he would be many more years away from the chance had either of those two won. Revenge? Yes, but with no personal gain. Under the rumored scenario he not only gets his revenge, he also gets the Speaker’s chair. A much sweeter deal for him. When the Speaker’s race was happening at the first of the year, he had not yet made the decision not to come back. It was much riskier to oppose Craddick and he did not want to risk his Chairmanship at the time. Now, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
What would be the benefit to Keffer of backing McCall or Pitts? Here’s one: He would get to be the real chair of Ways & Means, instead of being a surrogate for Craddick. He could actually craft policy. The downside was that, if he lost, he would have spent this session on the outside and then left the Legislature, which, if I read anonymous #1’s letter correctly, he apparently had planned to do anyway.
I really like Keffer. He’s an old-fashioned legislator, a rural conservative-Democrat type. But the problem he faces now is that events may have overtaken him. The urban/suburban Rs are tired of rural speakers. I don’t think that Craddick has much interest in the problems of the state beyond Midland County. This isn’t a condemnation. I have heard him, at a media availability, correct a reporter: “I’m not a statewide official. I’m the representative from Midland.” That is true. But I keep hearing folks say, He’s the last rural speaker. The problem for the urbans is that the rurals have always been, and still are, better at politics than the urbans. Their constituencies are more diverse, and they’re closer to their voters. They are better at forging personal relationships. Example: Craddick and Sylvester Turner.
Another problem for Keffer is that the anti-Craddicks believe that Craddick’s fingerprints are on him. He’s said to be involved with the speaker in business deals. Under the various scenarios that are being speculated upon, one is that Craddick will give Keffer his blessing. I don’t believe this, because, as I have written I don’t think Craddick is going to give up the gavel voluntarily.
But, as long as we’re speculating, let’s speculate that Keffer is indeed Craddick’s choice as successor(although at one time it was thought to be Phil King, who, by the way, has considerably improved his standing with Democrats this session, notwithstanding the voter registration bill). And let’s assume that Keffer and Craddick are in business together. So what? I can’t see Keffer agreeing to be Craddick’s toady. Wouldn’t a fair speaker making fair rulings and fair committee appointments be preferable to Craddick? What power would Craddick hold as a former speaker? Once you’re out, you’re out. You get a testimonial dinner and that’s all. Ask Pete Laney. Ask Tom DeLay. The moment DeLay resigned as majority leader, his power evaporated. I doubt that he got a dinner.