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the Legislature convenes Jan. 13, but Craddick is clearly fighting for his political life. With 64 Democrats and at least 10 Republicansone shy of a majoritypublicly committed to deposing Craddick, there’s hard evidence to support Democratic caucus Chair Jim Dunnam’s blunt appraisal that Craddick is “so done you can stick a fork in him” While Craddick may continue to fight for survival until the House convenes, dissident Republican Charlie Geren says he is certain that there will soon be a public announcement “by a candidate with more support than it requires to become speaker.” Further chinks in Craddick’s armor appeared when even supporters began publicly questioning his leadership. In particular, Republican Rep. Burt Solomons of Carrollton made statements to the San Antonio Express -News that could only be interpreted as withdrawing his support. Solomons, who has been a staunch Craddick ally, said he feared that Craddick would have to make deals with a few Craddick Ds to retain his speakership. “This is just turning into a fiasco again,” Solomons said on Nov. 13. “The House is seemingly coming apart. I am terribly, terribly dismayed that … apparently we have a handful of Democrats making demands for control of power and clout and title. A number of us, even though we’re supporters of Tom Craddick, are just totally turned off.” Those statements created a boomlet among House members for Solomons to offer himself as a candidate. Five days later, on Nov. 18, he did. Until January, this campaign will take place in a private realm that insiders describe as a real-life version of The Art of War, a mostly psychological battle in which perception equals reality. Aspeaker’s campaign, guided by its own laws and its own social conventions, is by definition a closeddoor political phenomenon. Party affiliation matters some, but not as much as personal relationships and the clout of coalitions: anti-Craddick Democrats; the “Craddick For rank-and-file Texans, the stakes in this game are high; among other problems with his leadership, Craddick’s determined hold on power has contributed to a deep gridlock that prevents many popular bills from even coming up for a vote. Craddick’s growing ranks of opponents believe that he is driven not by public-policy concerns but by helping lobbyist friends and the wealthy financiers of the Republican Party, some of whom have their own legislative agendas. Even ostensibly powerful chairmen under Craddick have openly complained to colleagues that their committees are not permitted to make decisions about particular billsthat they are micromanaged according to Craddick’s feuds and political alliances. The case against Craddick is well known: His six years as speaker have been marked by controversy and complaints about arm-twisting and fear of retribution by his powerful allies, including deep-pocket Republican contributors like Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and San Antonio businessman Jim Leininger, who supports conservative causes like education vouchers. The Texas House has been strong-armed to support issues dear to the hearts of these wealthy backers, including The “deregulation” of college tuition, which has led to escalating higher-education costs unpopular with the public, was an important piece of the Republican Party’s no-new-taxes pledge. During the debate over lawsuit limits in the 2003 session, Craddick was so closely aligned with the lobby group Texans for Lawsuit Reform that the House gallery seats frequented by its lobby team were derisively called “the owners’ box!’ During the debate on education vouchers, the bill’s main proponent, Leininger, lobbied members from an office inside the Capitol. And who could forget the acrimony over redistricting, which led Democratic House members, during Craddick’s first session as speaker, to flee to Ardmore, Okla., in an attempt to block midCensus redistricting in 2003? Nothing matched the fireworks that erupted in May 2007, when insurgents attempted a vote to “vacate the chair”parliamentary-speak for firing Craddick. Craddick refused to recognize any member to make the motion, after firing the House parliamentarian who ruled Craddick did not have that authority. He then hired two former House members, Terry Keel and Ron Wilson, who advised that the Speaker had absolute power and members could not appeal his decisions. A walk-out ensued, led by Republican Pat Haggerty of El Paso. Craddick punished this particular indiscretion by recruiting and funding Haggerty’s GOP primary opponent in 2008, Dee Margoa strategy that backfired on Nov. 4 when Margo lost the general election to Joe Moody, the man Craddick was trying to schmooze at the Austin Club. Money brought Craddick to power, and campaign contributions are an essential weapon in his bid to retain his position. He worked intimately with former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority, the group that spawned criminal investigations by the Travis County district attorney’s office into illegal corporate contributions. Although Craddick accepted and dispensed donations on the political action committee’s behalf, he was never charged with wrongdoing. TRMPAC and Stars Over Texas have been close partners in Texas political giving: According to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Texans for Public Justice, Stars and Craddick’s personal campaign committee have received $1.9 million since 2003 from 65 donors who also gave to TRMPAC. Leading the givers were Leininger, who gave almost $400,000 to Craddick’s money operation, and Perry, who’s given $310,000 since 2003. During this past election cycle, Craddick contributed $1.2 million to the Stars PAC. During the primary last spring, the nonpartisan group Texans for Public Justice filed an official complaint, still unresolved, against Craddick and another political action committee, the Texas Jobs PAC, which had been dormant for 18 months when it received a $250,000 contribution from the Craddick campaign in January. The very next day, the suddenly revived Jobs PAC cut three checks for $50,000 apiece to the campaigns of Democratic House incumbents Kevin Bailey, Kino Flores and Aaron Penaall of whom had supported Craddick’s speakership. \(Bailey ultimately lost in his primary, but the other NOVEMBER 28, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9