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Escape to the hills Great cabins on the beautiful Frio River Seven Bluff Cabins On River Road in Concan, TX 1.800.360.5260 SPECIAL OFFER for Observer subscribers! Stay 2 night,’ and get the 3rd night free. Good through Feb. 28 never bullied her into a vote. “When he I couldn’t agree with the bill, I would ur go up to the speaker, and he would es tell me to vote my district,” Wong told sethe Observer. She blamed Republican he resentment toward Craddick on their ns failure to communicate. “I think those a were people who didn’t visit with the cspeaker enough. If people would have irdone that, he would have been willing cto listen.” e, Some political observers believe m the defeats of Wong and several other Craddick loyalistsamong them Rep. 5, November 7, and former Education gCommittee Chair Kent Grusendorf in e the GOP primary last Marchoffer ra warning to House Republicans. “It m showed that Craddick can’t protect h you,” Dunnam said. s Craddick allies don’t buy that argu hment. “I would reject the idea that Tom s made people take the votes and they e lost,” said Bill Miller, an influential lobbyist, political consultant, and close e Craddick friend. “This is the way it is e with speakers. When you agree with e them, they are strong and great. If .you don’t agree with them, they are .autocratic.” He also doesn’t believe the speaker is in much danger. “Every single state rep wants to be speaker. This speculation generally arises around the time a new session is forthcoming. Anytime you have tough issues, you lose some battery power. But batteries recharge, and everything goes back to normal. He may be a little diminished, but the battery recharges quickly.” Still, the mounting GOP losses may result in a more independent GOP -caucus next year. Some incumbent -Republicans who narrowly won re-elec .tion in 2006 may be more inclined to buck the speaker. “[Lawmakers] are going to be more sensitive to the fact that they can be beaten,” Casteel said. With a smaller majority, Craddick will have little margin for error on most votes. As one Republican state rep who’s opposed Craddick in the past pointed out, “When you have 69 Democrats, it doesn’t take but seven Republicans to side with them to swing a close vote ” Craddick, continued from page 13 The electoral defeats began in t 2004 Democratic primary, when fo of Craddick’s closest Democratic alli were defeated for working too do ly with the GOP leadership. In t 2004 general election, Appropriatio Committee Chair Talmadge Heflin, Houston Republican, lost his re-ele tion bid. “If you can beat him, a cha man of appropriations, maybe the se and most powerful person in the Hous then you can beat anyone,” Dunna said. “Craddick is radioactive.” During the 2005 session, Craddick margin of victory on important vote became increasingly slim. In May 200 Craddick suffered his first major le islative defeat. A handful of moderat Republicans joined Democrats in na rowly voting down a pilot progra that would have provided parents wit publicly funded vouchers for their kid to attend private school. The vouc er plan is the darling of Dr. Jame Leininger, a San Antonio millionair and one of Craddick’s main finan cial backers. Casteel said the divisiv voucher proposal never should hay reached the floor. “People do not lik arrogance from anybody,” Casteel said “We [Republicans] began to exhibit that I think that was the reason we saw a loss [of seats] here in Texas. There is a perception that the leadership is more interested in certain people’s interests than the public’s interest.” Casteel noted that in her three years in the House, she saw leadership force many Republicansincluding her desk mate on the House floor, Rep. Martha Wong of Houstonto vote for bills they didn’t favor. On November 7, Wong lost this elec tion’s most expensive state representa tive race to Democrat Ellen Cohen Wong was first elected to the House in 2002 on a moderate platform. In the House, though, Wong was a consistent supporter of Craddick’s leadership. Some of her controversial votes with Craddick, such as support for cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, proved especially damaging in her re-election bid against Cohen. Wong, however, said the speaker In that environment, if Craddick attempts to muscle bills through the House, the speaker could risk a backlash. The Texas House has never removed a speaker in the middle of a session. Some political observers find it telling, however, that anger against Craddick is so great in some quarters that many lawmakers can recite from memory the procedure under House rules for a motion to “vacate the chair.” Such drastic measures would be unthinkable if Craddick would legislate diplomatically. Casteel believes he has little choice. “I think the speaker, if it remains Mr. Craddick, will be more sensitive,” Casteel said. “He’s certainly going to have to take into account what happened in this last election cycle if he wants to remain speaker, certainly if he wants to remain speaker two years from now.” Others wonder if Craddick is capable of giving up enough control to govern more openly. “He has said that he [will moderate] every time,” Dunnam said. “I voted for him the first time… I voted for him the second time after he promised moderation, said he would change his style. It’s clear he is not going to change his spots. Who he is, is who he is.” DECEMBER 1, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25