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HD11

One more for Speaker

And then there were five.

Rep. Travis Clardy

State Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, filed Monday morning to run for speaker of the Texas House, making him the fourth Republican to throw his hat in the ring in the race to succeed retiring House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

“We’re coming out of the summer and I think it’s time we get serious about the political process,” Clardy told The Texas Tribune. “I think it’s more important than ever that we make a decision as a House to pick our leadership, and be prepared to start the 86th Legislature with a strong, positive step and a vision for the future.”

[…]

He enters a speaker’s race that already includes Democrat Eric Johnson of Dallas and three Republicans: Tan Parker of Flower Mound, Phil King of Weatherford and John Zerwas of Richmond.

Ahead of the next regular session, House Republicans agreed to select a speaker in their caucus and then vote as a bloc on the floor. Prior to the March 6 primaries, House Republicans pushed incumbents and candidates to sign a form promising to ultimately support the caucus pick. While Parker and King have signed the form, Zerwas and Clardy have not. Clardy told the Tribune Monday, however, that he does intend to vote with his party next session on who should succeed Straus.

“I’m a lifelong Republican and I was at the convention, but that pledge was originally prepared before we did the caucus vote. It’s kind of redundant,” Clardy told the Tribune. “I already voted with the caucus to support a Republican nominee out of our caucus to be the next speaker. It’s kind of backwards to pledge to do something I’ve already done.”

See here and here for some background. I don’t have an opinion on Rep. Clardy, who told his hometown newspaper shortly after Straus announced his retirement that he’d be interested in the Speaker gig. As I said in that first link above, the question is whether Republicans can coalesce around a single candidate so that they can elect him (all the candidates so far are male) without needing any dirty Democratic support, or if their divisions are too deep and whoever comes crawling to the Dems first wins the prize. The more Dems there are, the fewer Republicans there are, the less room the Republicans have for dissent, the more likely that latter scenario. So basically, as with most of my other entries the past few months, the message is to get out and vote, and make sure everyone you know votes. It’s not just about Congress, after all.

Hopson switches, Agosto drops out

Two pieces of news for the 2010 cycle, one good and one not good. For the latter first, State Rep. Chuck Hopson, who won a very tight race for re-election in 2008, has announced that he will run in 2010 as a Republican.

A press release from Hopson’s campaign said he thinks President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats do not represent the concerns and values of his East Texas district. Hopson is scheduled to hold a press conference on his switch later this afternoon.

In 2008, Hopson won re-election by 114 votes. He likely would have faced even more difficulty in 2010, considering that Democrats have lost some of their momentum from the 2008 election.

“It takes strength and integrity to stand against the special interests — and while some members have that strength, others, like Chuck Hopson, do not,” said state Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie.

Richie said Hopson had told Democratic members that he’d rather retire from the House than become a Republican.

A letter from House Democratic Caucus Chair Jim Dunnam, which is more cordial to Hopson, is beneath the fold. It’s certainly true that as suburban Texas is becoming more Democratic, rural Texas is becoming more Republican, and Hopson likely read the same tea leaves that formerly-Republican State Rep. Kirk England did back in 2007. I’ll certainly take that trade demographically, but in the short run this is a blow to the Democrats’ chances of retaking the House, as was Rep. David Farabee’s retirement. At least we’re not still trying to get rid of Tom Craddick as Speaker. Greg and Phillip, who once worked for Hopson, have more.

On the better side, SBOE member Rick Agosto, a Democrat who was way too close to the wingnut faction of the Board, is not running for re-election.

Trinity University literature professor Michael Soto, 39, announced Thursday that he will seek the Democratic Party nomination for District 3, which stretches from San Antonio south to the border.

And several top Democratic Party leaders from San Antonio, including state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and former State Board of Education member Joe Bernal, are backing Soto.

Agosto, who was first elected in 2006, said he needs to spend more time with his family and investment business.

“I’ve enjoyed my time there,” but being a state board member basically can be a full-time job, Agosto said.

Agosto has been the subject of several recent newspaper stories about business relationships with companies vying for contracts with the board.

He has denied any wrongdoing and atrributes the criticism to political back-biting on the board.

Agosto said his re-election decision is not related to this scrutiny.

Good riddance, and Agosto will hopefully be one of many bad SBOE incumbents to be back in the private sector after next year. Read more about Soto here. I look forward to hearing more about him and his campaign.

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Election challenge in HD11

Brian Walker, the losing Republican challenger to State Rep. Chuck Hopson in the second closest election of the year in HD11, has filed paperwork for an election contest in the House. From the Quorum Report:

After the recount, Hopson beat Walker by more than 200 votes.

In his statement, Walker said, “The petition contains allegations of improper election procedures in Cherokee County that may have compromised the integrity of the election process. According to the Walker Campaign, an election contest is the only opportunity left for East Texas voters to get honest answers to some very troubling questions that were not answered before or during the recount process as well as a few that have arisen since. The allegations in the Petition for Election Contest are based on information provided by third parties to the Walker Campaign, first-hand observations by Walker campaign volunteers on Election Day, and first-hand observations by individuals overseeing the recount process in Cherokee County. The campaign is in the process of investigating each of the allegations individually to determine their level of merit.”

At first blush, this would appear to be Speaker politics games. However, law and precedent would have Hopson sworn in on the first day along with his colleagues. The only vote he would not be able to participate in would be on the Walker election contest challenge if it actually made it to the House floor many weeks down the road..

[…]

Attorney Buck Wood said, “With Walker down more than 200 votes they have absolutely no chance on this. I think it was purely defensive because they thought we might seek to contest the Linda Harper-Brown election and I would have if we had pulled ahead after re-considering the de-selected votes. But we didn’t.”

“I doubt they will even pursue this,” Wood said. “It would require proving systematic fraud.”

You’d think if that were the case they’d have gotten AG Greg Abbott and his crack staff of vote-fraud-sniffer-outers on the job. Be that as it may, the main point to note is that this will not have an effect on the math for the Speaker’s race. At least, assuming the Speaker’s race doesn’t drag out past the first couple of days or so, it won’t.

Vince notes that this is the first election challenge in the House since Talmadge Heflin tried to overturn Rep. Hubert Vo’s victory in 2005. I’d add that there were at one point a total of three election challenges in that cycle; the others were by Eric Opiela against Rep. Yvonne Gonzales Toreilles in HD35 and by former Rep. Jack Stick against Rep. Mark Strama in HD50. Stick dropped his challenge shortly thereafter, and Opiela followed suit before it got underway. My suspicion is that Walker’s challenge will dissolve before it begins, but you never know. Trail Blazers has more.