A big decision is due in a little over a year for the Texas House of Representatives in Austin, and the prospect will tantalize everyone concerned with the House speakership until then.
Speaker Joe Straus sparked the ruckus with his Oct. 25 announcement that he’d retire and leave the power-laden office after this year.
Weatherford Rep. Phil King had already filed to oppose the moderate San Antonio Republican, and Rep. John Zerwas of Richmond, Straus’s chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, quickly joined the race, which GOP Reps. Brooks Landgraf of Odessa, Tom Craddick of Midland and King say will get more crowded as the year progresses.
Among others considered likely to try are Reps. Drew Darby of San Angelo and Tan Parker of Flower Mound.
Parker chaired the House Republican Caucus when it met Dec. 1 in Austin to OK plans to pick a nominee before the 86th Legislature convenes on Jan. 8 next year. Noting that the House’s composition won’t be known until after the March 6 party primaries and Nov. 6 general election, Landgraf said, “It’s going to be a wide-open race.
“The person who receives my vote for speaker will be first, someone who adheres to the Texas standards of conservative government; second, has a very good understanding of the oil and gas industry and the people who produce it; and third, accepts my invitation to come out here before the end of the year and see Odessa and West Texas for themselves.”
Landgraf was among supporters of a change in the caucus’s by-laws to require a two-thirds majority on the first ballot next December and 60 percent on subsequent ballots as candidates are eliminated finally to cut the number to two, assuming no one gets the necessary support before then. “There are going to be so many changes before it’s even known who is eligible to run and vote that it’s difficult to say who the speaker will be,” he said.
Referring to Craddick’s three two-year terms in the office from 2003-09, Landgraf said, “Speaker Craddick continues to be the standard by which all speakers are judged.”
Neither Landgraf nor Craddick has a Republican opponent this year.
“I don’t know where we’re going at this point because there will be turnover with some members running for other stuff, some not running and some defeated,” said Craddick, the House’s longest-serving member with 49 years in office.
“A lot of people have agreed to vote for the person the caucus nominates, and it will be interesting to see if all that stays together. I think a lot will depend on what the vote is and who the candidate is. It will be great if the caucus sticks together.”
With 95 members, the House Republican Caucus can choose the new speaker if it votes as a bloc because the 150-member House only requires a majority vote. Craddick said he will not enter the race.
Interviewed as he traveled to North Texas Monday, soliciting members for their backing, King said he “would really like to turn the House to be more member-driven.
“It has become too much of a speaker-driven House, and one way to do that is term limits,” he said. “I want a constitutional amendment limiting speakers to three terms, and I’m pledging not to serve more than three.”
King said the members he had met with said they wanted “someone with experience and the right temperament who has demonstrated the ability to work with everybody and build consensuses.
“I’m working very hard at it,” he said.