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and a faith in the common good. “Right now in this country, we don’t have a problem of too much community. We have individualism run amuck,” he said. Many of the legislative seminars focused on how children fare in Texas. It ain’t good. You probably know some of the grim stats. Josette Saxton, with the nonprofit Texans Care for Children, told the crowd that Texas is especially stingy with early childhood development resources. Children’s brains develop mostly by age 3, yet public investment for toddlers is scant. Daycare workers earn a small hourly wage; the job requires only high school equivalency and eight hours of training. If we’re serious about building community, Saxton said, we must invest in young children. The Methodist women will carry that message back to legislative districts across the state. The group pledged to make 450 visits to lawmakers before November. LETTERS TO THE EDITORS 307 W. 7th St. Austin, TX 78701 for his directness, is one of the House’s allies flow to his opponent in the weeks more independent Republicans. He has just before the primary. clashed for years with Craddick, the Unlike two years ago, Geren is openly three-term House speaker. At the end criticizing the speaker during the cam of last session, Geren joined a handful of paign. He recently mailed a campaign Republicans who tried to oust Craddick flier to voters touting his opposition from the speaker’s chair. The mud sales to Craddick. “I think we need a new man from Midland has a long memory, Republican speaker,” Geren told the and the man can nurture a grudge like Observer. “Under Speaker Craddick’s few others. Moreover, Craddick needs leadership, we’ve gone from 88 to 79 more friendly Republicans elected to the Republican seats. I think it’s time we had House if he hopes to win another term different leadership, though I believe it as speaker at the beginning of the 2009 needs to be Republican leadership.” session. So it wasn’t surprising that Geren drew a primary opponent or that METHODISTS TO THE MADNESS In the election will be largely a referendum this era of Christian fundamentalism, on Craddick. the voices of religious moderates and The challenger is Fort Worth optom progressives often seem lost amid the etrist Tom Annunziato. No evidence incessant amens and hallelujahs from has emerged that Craddick or his allies the religious right. But people of faith recruited Annunziato for the race, and concerned with social justice haven’t Geren says he doesn’t know if the speak gone away. er was involved. But political observers At the 20th annual United Methodist in Austin who have watched Craddick Women Legislative Event, held at a operate over the years have their sus downtown Austin hotel in late January, picions. Annunziato didn’t respond to women from all over the state gathered interview requests from the Observer. to discuss how to restore the notion of Annunziato’s last campaign finance the common good and social justice to report was an impressive sight: The Texas politics. challenger reported raising more than The Methodist women didn’t look like $178,000 through the end of December a fiery crowd. Many were white-haired and had $147,933 in the bank at the and came dressed in prim pantsuits. Yet end of 2007. The large majority of during question-and -answer sessions, Annunziato’s money came from optomethey showed a passion for change. In tristsseemingly every eye doctor in the policy sessions, they learned the intri state has contributed, including more cacies of the political process while than $78,000 from the Texas Optometric brainstorming ways to make education, PAC. \(Annunziato was once president of the environment, and health care top Geren isn’t short on money, either. faith organization that marries progresHe’s got $160,617 on hand, and he’s sive religious values with political action, beaten well-funded challengers before. hosted the event. In 2006, he won re-election despite a At a dinner on the conference’s second primary opponent who had received night, the women heard from campaign more than $800,000 from James strategist and former Bush aide Matthew Leininger, the wealthy school voucher Dowd, and campaign finance reformer proponent and Craddick ally. Geren says Fred Lewis. Dowd described the current Leininger told him he would stay out of zeitgeist. “Nearly every major institution Geren’s race this time around. “I take Dr. in this county, the American public, the Leininger as a man of his word,” Geren people of Texas, have lost faith in them,” said. “I don’t believe Dr. Leininger’s he said. That loss of faith, he said, has going to be in my race.” “disconnected us from each other. We That doesn’t mean other campaign don’t feel part of a community. We don’t funders and political action committees know where to turn.” loyal to Craddick won’t back Annunziato. Lewis reminded the audience that In 2006, Geren saw money from Craddick they are drawn together by community FEBRUARY 8, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5