Jason Embry makes the case that the start of the next legislative session will be much calmer than the previous one, and it’s hard to argue.
Republican Joe Straus finished his first session as speaker of the Texas House well-positioned to return for a second. His chances of remaining speaker seem only to have improved in the 10 months since.
The House remains closely divided between 77 Republicans and 73 Democrats. But a number of big and small events recently suggest more success for the speaker.
Questions persist about whether supporters of former GOP Speaker Tom Craddick can make a comeback and overtake Straus, much the way Straus overtook Craddick last year. But several staunch Craddick supporters opted not to seek re-election, and Straus won over some other Craddick backers during last year’s session. Even if voters sweep a wave of conservatives into office this fall (Straus is slightly more moderate than Craddick), would Republican lawmakers vote out the man at the helm when the party picked up seats?
Looking to November, don’t discount the Democrats, who proved themselves better at winning legislative races than Republicans by capturing 11 seats from 2005 to 2008.
Unhappiness with Gov. Rick Perry or incumbents in general could lift Dems to a House majority, and the party will get out-of-state financial help. Plus, Straus still has to prove he can carry his party to victories in November.
I think the odds are greater at this point of a Democratic majority than of a pro-Craddick majority. There wasn’t nearly the drama and intrigue in this year’s primaries as there was in years past, thanks to Craddick’s diminished role and lack of a giant PAC fund, and while there’s still a few runoffs that could elevate a more-friendly-to-him candidate to the House, overall the potentially pro-Craddick forces didn’t gain any ground. Plus, there’s just no chatter about a Craddick comeback, which you’d expect if there were something afoot. If we’ve learned anything this decade, it’s that ousting a Speaker isn’t easy to do, and doesn’t happen in the dark. If we wake up on November 3 with a Democratic majority in the House, that will be one thing, though even then it’s not certain it would mean a new Speaker. Otherwise, I figure it’ll be another session for Straus.