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Voucher, continued from page 11 may vanish from the state budget; or worst of all, you may find yourself with a well-funded opponent in the 2006 primary. Craddick gavels the vote to a close. It’s a tie. The motion to table fails. The amendment is still alive. The vote not to table Casteel’s amendment is the second tie of the evening. Passage of both the voucher bill and the amend ments lined up to destroy it is uncertain. The members watch the podium and wonder what the speaker will do. He could pull down the bill temporarily, pressure a few Republicans to vote his way and bring it back when the leadership is more assured of victory. In two sessions running the House, Craddick has yet to lose on any major legislation that he heavily supported. He opts to continue. Legislators, Republican and Democrat, will later wonder why. Is it because he wants Leininger to see exactly who needs to be eliminated in the next primary? Is it to show his patron that he, Craddick, personally, will not falter? Or is it just inconceivable to the terse Midlander that he could lose? Casteel returns to the microphone and moves passage of her amendment to kill vouchers. Craddick casts another vote. This time the leadership wins. The amendment is defeated by a count of 72-70, and vouchers are still in the bill. Opponents go scrambling around the House floor to find out which votes they lost. Craddick and the leadership are looking for a few more votes too and continue to barrage Republicans, including a quiet freshman from Nacogdoches. Roy Blake has bright blue eyes and a gentle demeanor. Like many rural reps, he’s never liked vouchers, never thought government should divert money from public schools. As a GOP backbencher in this, his first session, Blake naturally is just learning how the Capitol works. He’s best known for having been mayor of Nacogdoches when the space shuttle exploded over East Texas in 2002. On this night, however, he’s in the cross hairs. Blake is asked into the back hall for a meeting in the speaker’s office with Craddick’s chief of staff Nancy Fisher to pressure him to change his vote. He and his constituents abhor vouchers. But the House leadership and the party’s small collection of campaign moneymen could easily run a well-funded primary opponent against Blake that would unseat him or send him into debt. A few minutes later, Blake walks back onto the floor looking a little dazed. Charlie Geren, a moderate Republican from Fort Worth and a leading voucher opponent, intercepts him, “You okay, Roy? Are you okay?” Blake nods wearily. Geren is called away. His amendment to SB 422 is up next. He and other voucher opponents have spent months crafting and honing their amendments in anticipation of this floor fight. Geren’s amendment is just an empty shell, it doesn’t affect the bill. He comes to the microphone with a surprise. He has an amendment to his amendment, one that voucher supporters have not seen yet, that he will substitute for his original amendment. It gives the House leader 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 10, 2005