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LEGISLATIVE WRAPUP Turner on a Tightrope BY MONICA GUTIERREZ Rone of the trickiest political balancing acts in Texas politics. He is Speaker Pro Tempore, ostensibly the second most powerful position in the Texas House. Rep. Tom Craddick \(R130 yearsappointed Turner to his leadership spot in 2003, at the beginning of the 78th Legislative session. But Turner is not a Republican. He is an African-American Democrat who represents a district where 19.6 percent of the population is living according to the 2000 U.S. Census. None of Craddick’s leadership team fully embraces Turner’s concerns for more funding for public education and healthcare, consumer rights, human services, and juvenile justice. In fact, the direction of the House since Turner received the position of Speaker Pro Tern has taken a hard right that runs counter to the interests of his inner city Houston district. Turner’s balancing act of maintaining loyalty to Craddick and to his constituents has landed him in trouble in the past. A few of his fellow Democrats have privately questioned whether Republicans are using Turner as a facade, so that they may appear more inclusive. The representative was also strongly criticized for not joining the majority of the Democratic caucus in their flight to Ardmore, Oklahoma, to avoid a congressional redistricting vote in 2003. The 51-year-old Houston native argues that his position ultimately is a boon to all involved. Thanks to his spot in the leadership and his seniority-17 years in the Texas Legislature Turner sits on the most powerful committees in the House including Regulated Industries \(where he is Chairman of Budget through which all important legwhere he chairs the Democrats appointed to the conference committee on the budget, where much of the work on the only piece of legislation the Legislature must complete each session is actually conducted. He also serves as a liaison for his fellow Democrats in the House to gain support for their legislation with the leadership. Yet this session, it was clear that Turner was frequently frus Photos courtesy of the Texas HOUR’ Photography Department 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 24, 2005