'Twas the Fight for the Speakership

Nothing's stirring in the political world this week, except in the Texas House. When Texas Republicans retained their majority in the state House of Representatives ...
by | December 27, 2006
 

Nothing's stirring in the political world this week, except in the Texas House.

When Texas Republicans retained their majority in the state House of Representatives in November (albeit with five fewer seats), Tom Craddick seemed ensured another two years as the body's speaker. But fellow Republican Brian McCall is running against Craddick and feels confident he can win when legislators choose a new speaker January 9.

While McCall's task is difficult -- ousting someone who's been speaker since 2002 and who won his first legislative election in 1968 -- the math required for him to get to the magic number of 76 is fairly simple:

1) McCall needs the votes of the House's 69 Democrats.

2) He needs to remember to vote for himself (very important).

3) He needs to find six other Republicans who will support him, perhaps after being promised one of many plum committee chairmanships.

Though it might seem odd that McCall's bid hinges on support from the opposite party, it's not all that unusual. Just last month in the Alaska Senate, members of the Democratic minority won themselves some committee chairmanships by forming a governing coalition with a group of Republicans. Something similar is afoot in Alabama, where, despite the nominal 23-12 Democratic edge, six dissident Democrats may join with Republicans to decide the body's leadership.

In Texas, Democrats seem open to the idea of supporting McCall en masse, largely because they regard Craddick as overly partisan and confrontational. It's not clear whether McCall is willing to allow Democrats to run some committees or if he's just promising better treatment instead.

There's a precedent for the latter approach in New Hampshire, where two years ago Democrats conspired with some GOPers to choose a moderate Republican as House speaker, even though they weren't receiving any chairmanships in the bargain.

The gambit succeeded: The Republican leadership worked well with Democratic Governor John Lynch. This year, voters gave Lynch credit for the new spirit of bipartisanship and handed his party victories up and down the ballot (The irony of voters rewarding one party for bipartisanship isn't lost on New Hampshire Republicans). As a result, the newly minted Democratic majority in the House won't have to consult with anyone else to choose a speaker.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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