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Lone Star Project Report

Tom Craddick - Challenged to Change

But history says don't count on it

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick was on the ropes Monday morning.  Most Democrats and a growing number of Republicans had withdrawn their support for a third Craddick term.  His support had shrunk from 109 (34 more than the 75 needed for reelection) to the low 80’s.(The Houston Chronicle, January 2, 2007)  Challenger, Republican Jim Pitts, was consolidating support by drawing off most Democrats and a critical mass of disgruntled Republicans.  However, by day’s end, Craddick and his allies had employed some Tom DeLay style intimidation along with procedural moves to shut down the uprising.  Now Craddick is claiming he will change.  His history shows that is unlikely.

Twisting Arms and Taking Names

Key to unseating Craddick was winning the ability to cast a confidential ballot and that the votes remain private until after key committee assignments were made by the Speaker.  Craddick and his allies knew that a confidential vote could end his leadership, so they used a long break in the proceedings to pull wavering Republicans into a back room to “convince” them to oppose an amendment allowing a confidential vote.  The measure failed by a narrow 80 to 68 margin.

Within minutes, it became very clear why a confidential vote rule was needed to end the Craddick era of coercion and intimidation.  Quickly following the key vote, Craddick’s challenger, fellow Republican Jim Pitts, went from being the strongest challenger to a sitting Texas Speaker since 1959 to literally withdrawing from the race in order to protect his supporters from retaliation.  The threat to punish Craddick defectors hung heavy in the air when one of his principle supporters, Rep. Will Hartnett, stated “I personally have no interest in protecting double pledgers.” (Dallas Morning News, January 10, 2007)

"Prove Me Wrong"

During the final days before the vote, three Democrats, Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville, Armando Martinez of Weslaco and Richard Raymond of Laredo announced that they were withdrawing their pledges for Craddick. Their bold action helped build momentum in the lead up to the vote and according to Harvey Kronberg, it almost worked.  (Quorum Report, January 10, 2006)

After the motion for a confidential vote was defeated and Pitts had withdrawn from the Speaker’s race, Richard Raymond made a passionate floor speech urging his colleagues to vote against Craddick anyway (view it here go to 6:44 in RealPlayer) Raymond closed his speech with a plea and a challenge to Craddick to “prove me wrong” and end coercion and intimidation by the leadership.

Don’t Count on It

Tom Craddick became Speaker only after he and Tom DeLay orchestrated the illegal TRMPAC election scheme in 2002.  DeLay himself sat behind Craddick when he was originally sworn in as Speaker.  Since then, Craddick has typically made statements that sound reasonable and conciliatory, but followed them with iron fisted tactics.

False Statementson Ethics

What Craddick said:

  • "I've always been pro-ethics," Mr. Craddick said. (The Dallas Morning News, May 1, 2003)
  • Regarding the blocked ethics bill, Craddick said he is "staying out of that bill." (The Houston Chronicle, April 14, 2005)

What Craddick did:

  • "A second state official has corroborated a report connecting prospective House speaker Tom Craddick to special insurance legislation benefiting his then-lobbyist daughter." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, December 5, 2002)
  • “Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick and his wife aren't exactly scouring bargain basements searching out appliances and decor for their apartment inside the Capitol. After all, they don't have to. Lobbyists, businessmen and a corporate foundation are among about 40 donors who have contributed more than $1 million to renovate the 2,000-square-foot apartment behind the House chamber.”  (Associated Press State, July 15, 2006)

False Statements on Fairness and Civility

What Craddick said:

  • "Legislative leadership -- must be truly bipartisan," Craddick said. "Effective leadership means leadership that is fair, honest, balanced and inclusive." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 15, 2003)
  • "Craddick says he'll continue the bipartisan tradition Laney has observed." (Austin American-Statesman, December 27, 2001)
  • "But Craddick said Thursday that the Republican Party's agenda will not necessarily be the House's agenda.  "The party's helped us get elected and that's great. But I think the House will determine those individual issues," he said." (The Houston Chronicle,  November 08, 2002)

What Craddick did:

  • "After a day of public rhetoric and private arm-twisting, the House tentatively approved a stripped-down school finance plan Tuesday that would give Texas one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation in exchange for a modest property tax cut… The first vote to give the bill tentative approval failed, 69-77, shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, with 19 Republicans joining most of the House's Democrats in opposing the measure.
  • The House then took a break while Speaker Tom Craddick and other Republicans leaders went behind closed doors with reluctant lawmakers. About two hours later, work resumed, with the House voting 77-66 to reconsider its earlier vote." (The Houston Chronicle, May 05, 2004)
  • “A public, finger-pointing scolding of some members by Craddick and then, later, his reluctance to rule on a point of order that eventually sent HB 4 (Tort Reform) back to committee, raised questions about his leadership style.” (San Antonio Express-News, March 23, 2003)

False Statements on Open Government

What Craddick said:

  • "I am not in favor of closed meetings. I support openness in government and a Texas House in which all members have an opportunity to lead and have their legislation heard," Craddick said." (The Associated Press State & Local Wire, March 20, 2003)

What Craddick did:

  • "In both the House and the Senate, negotiations on public school finance and taxes have been done in marathon private meetings by a handful of lawmakers without a public peek at how the final plans might come together, or ultimately, fall apart… House Speaker Tom Craddick said those rules were adopted so that representatives could negotiate in earnest and under tight deadlines." (The Dallas Morning News, July 19, 2005)
  • "Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick and others have said the Legislature is governed by its own rules and is not subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act." (The Associated Press, September 27, 2003)

False Statements on Redistricting

What Craddick said:

  • “Mr. Craddick reiterated in a news release that while he supports the notion of a redraw, he will not push for it” (The Dallas Morning News, April 25, 2003)
  • "I don't know that we're going to do anything," said Craddick… He said he will not push the bill"(The Houston Chronicle, April 25, 2003)

What Craddick did:

  • "Craddick - acting under House rules and a vote of members present - ordered that the runaways be arrested and returned to the Capitol. In his sworn testimony, [State Trooper] Crais said Craddick provided leads and directed DPS personnel in the command center." (The Houston Chronicle, June 05, 2003)
  • “A congressional redistricting proposal that could send six more Texas Republicans to Washington was approved by the state House early today...During debate Monday, a ruling by House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, ended a move to derail the legislation on technical grounds.” (Fort Worth Star Telegram, July 8, 2003).

Likely False Statements following Re-election as Speaker

What Craddick said:

  • "If in some way I fall short of your expectations or needs, please tell me, and I will do my best to correct that shortcoming," (The Houston Chronicle, January 10, 2007)

What Craddick will do:

  • Stay tuned, but don't get your hopes up