Texas Democrats announced Monday that 64 Democrats will not support Midland Republican Tom Craddick as Texas House Speaker, effectively throwing the speaker's race open.
The House Democratic Caucus, led by Waco Democrat Jim Dunnam, announced: "Today, the fact that there will be a new Speaker for the 81st Texas House of Representatives is established."
Twelve Republicans had already deserted Craddick, meaning that 76 House members are now publicly pledged against him.
Six Republicans are already running against Craddick with more expected to announce. Republicans dominate the House 76-74. (Ten Democrats have not opposed Craddick.)
The Democratic caucus statement said the 64 Democrats are pledged to "allowing each House member to represent their constituents to the best of their ability, and allow ideas, bills and policy to be dictated by the merits."
"I think today and tomorrow you'll see some of Craddick's lieutenants and committee chairs come out against his re-election," said River Oaks Republican Charlie Geren, a Craddick opponent ever since leaders tried to force through a school voucher plan that would have taken money from middle-income public schools in northwest Tarrant County.
"With Tom, you never say 'never,' " Geren said. "But I don't believe he will be the next speaker."
Geren said he expects at least one new candidate, maybe more. The six Republican challengers include Eastland Republican Jim Keffer.
Craddick has been House Speaker since 2003 when Republicans assumed control of the House. He has led the Republican Caucus for 20 years.
All the Tarrant County Democrats signed the pledge opposing Craddick.