Two years is an eternity in politics, which might explain the forgetfulness surrounding the speakership. In November 2008, there were nine members of the Texas House vying to be Speaker. And not one of them was named Joe Straus.
In fact, State Rep. Joe Straus was pledged to the incumbent Republican Speaker, Tom Craddick of Midland.
O, how a month changes everything.
Consider this. Challenging Mr. Craddick for the gavel in November '08 were Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), Alan Ritter (D-Nederland), Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), Delwin Jones (R-Lubbock), Jim Keffer (R-Eastland), and Tommy Merritt (R-Longview). See a particular name missing?
Lesson 1. When Mr. Straus' team brags about their pledge cards, remember that Mr. Straus was pledged in November to Mr. Craddick. So what Straus signer might right now be in the wings, unaware she or he might be the next speaker?
Lesson 2. When folks compare the pledges of Mr. Straus' challengers to Mr. Straus, consider the list of opponents to Mr. Craddick and their pledges. Mr. Paxton and Mr. Chisum have more pledges and support today than Mr. Straus did two years ago today.
Lesson 3. Demands that pledge cards be considered binding must be met with a chuckle. Apparently even Mr. Straus did not consider his pledge to be of any consequence.
Welcome to the future. Something remarkable is happening, historically: the people aren't going away as some insiders had hoped. The backroom dealings have had its day, but that day is hopefully nearly done.
No longer will Texans be content with a speaker chosen behind the scenes in a feudal system of pledges to a manor-lord. The speakership is a high office of public trust, and the people must be part of the discussion. That only happens through full political transparency, open debate and public dialogue.
This seems like a new tact from Michael Sullivan... to argue that the speakership is a high office of public trust... it is somewhat of a populist argument but an argument that even the liberal editorial boards will find hard to ignore... shouldn't the people be part of the process and shouldn't the process be transparent rather than behind closed doors?
At the same time though I think there were a lot more cracks in the Craddick control on the House two years ago after so many of his peeps lost left and right in the anti Bush wave of 2006 and the Obama wave of 2008... right now there are only two declared opponents to Joe Straus... and the Democrats aren't showing any cracks either in their support because they know the more moderate Straus is a better bet for them than someone like Ken Paxton...
I still think there is a speakers race... I wouldn't say it's over... but more reps will need to begin peeling off from Straus... and I do see his support as a bit soft with a lot of members but they aren't willing to speak out if it means they will lose their assignments or be targeted for redistricting... and redistricting will involve a lot of infighting within the GOP this year...