Jim Pitts announced for Speaker at his 4 p.m. press conference. Apparently the audio was not working, so anyone viewing the proceedings couldn’t hear anything. You don’t suppose the Speaker’s gremlins had anything to do with this, do you? Following his remarks, Pitts was asked why he decided to run. He said he told Craddick on Tuesday that he didn’t think the speaker could “get there” [to 75 votes]. Even so, Pitts’ name appeared on Craddick’s list of pledges today.

Pitts also said he told McCall the same thing, that McCall couldn’t get there. This is curious, because when there are only two candidates competing for 149 votes, one of them has to get to at least 75. Pitts joked that members had told him they had signed pledge cards for Craddick, for McCall, and for Thompson, and they wished they could sign a pledge for a member they could vote for.

Asked how he would be different from Craddick, Pitts said, “I will never insist or intimidate a members to vote against their districts.”

Concerning potential retribution, Pitts shrugged it off: “I’ve been in the House 14 years. I can be a freshman again.”

Pitts joked, or maybe only half-joked, that he was “a man who has more guts than I thought I did.”

His rationale for running became clear in an answer to a question about Democratic support. “I’m not a candidate the Democratic caucus is running,” he said–a clear reference to McCall’s support from a purported 56 Democrats. In a conversation prior to the meeting, Pitts told me that there are many Republicans who are not for Craddick but are reluctant to join a coalition dominated by Democrats (and therefore vulnerable to a challenge in the primary). This would not be a problem in a more balanced coalition that Pitts foresees supporting him.

This all makes very good sense, but Pitts may be too late. The McCall folks feel that they can wrap up the race over the weekend.

Here is Pitts’ statement preceding the Q and A from the press:

After saying he had filed the papers by mail earlier today, Pitts mentioned all three of his potential rivals:

“Brian McCall is my friend. We have served together for many years, and I know that our friendship will withstand the challenge of this campaign, no matter how spirited. I know that Brian loves this institution just like me, and I respect his tenacity and courage in stepping forward.

“And Speaker Tom Craddick placed his confidence in me by appointing me Chair of Appropriations. I know that I have frustrated him at times, because we have not always agreed on every issue with the budget and school finance. Tom, I am very grateful to you for letting me serve as Chair of this very powerful committee.

“…Mrs. Thompson, I want to you know that we all hear you, loud and clear. I am proud to serve with you and to work with you in areas where we can reach a consensus, and where we cannot, to still be colleagues and friends.

Pitts then thanked members for being there for him when his family was struck by tragedy [the death of his wife in an automobile accident more than two years ago] and for standing by him as he represented the House as Chair of Appropriations, “making very difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions about the budget.”

“In short, the members–all of them–have been there fore me, and it is time for me to be there for them.”

“…I step forward to offer my service and leadership as the next Speaker of the House, in the true spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship.” [jab # 1 at Craddick]

“I realize that this Chamber is somewhat divided and that we have a very difficult session ahead of us. But at thye end of the day, I believe that all of the members are waiting for a way to vote their districts [jab #2 at Craddick] and serve together. I want to help them do that.

“The members, especially those who serve with me on Appropriations, know that I work hard, that my door is always open, and that I am always willing to listen to them [jab #3 at Craddick] and try to find solutions to their problems….

“Over the nest few days, I will reach out to every member personally and ask for their support, without arm twisting or intimidation [BIG jab at Craddick], because those of you who know me know that this is not how I do business.”

more on this after I make some more calls …