House Speaker Tom Craddick, faced with growing opposition in his bid for re-election to his leadership post, is calling supporters to Austin this weekend for a critical strategy session. One leading ally said the besieged House leader is expected to discuss whether he should stay in the race or withdraw.
“He’ll decide one way or the other,’’ said Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Chisum said he was invited by another Craddick ally who told him: “We’re having hamburgers and ice tea and we ain’t drinking no whiskey. We’re going to make some serious decisions.”
Alexis DeLee, Craddick’s communications director, confirmed the Sunday night meeting but said Craddick’s possible withdrawal from the speaker’s race “is not at all going to be part of the discussion.” Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, who plans to attend, also softened Chisum’s description of the gathering, calling it a fairly routine strategy session in advance of the upcoming 2009 Legislature.
Chisum said Craddick clearly has more support than any of his supporters but may be short of the needed 76 votes to win.
“I’m guessing in the numbers of 50 to 53, but that’s not enough to get there,’’ Chisum said. Craddick’s camp says the speaker has more than the needed majority but has not released a list of supporters.
“At the end of the meeting, we’re going to have a plan,” Chisum said. “And the plan is that he stays and we’re going to do this and this. Or he decides that I can’t make it so you all need to move on.”
“If he thinks he’s got the votes, he’s going to move forward,” said Chisum. But, he said, “He’s as realist. If he can’t win, I’m confident he won’t take us down that road. If we’re going to win this, we’ve got to be sure we can.”
King, chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee, said Craddick has “told me on more than one occasion that if it ever got to the point that he didn’t think he could win he would be the first to withdraw and release his pledges.” But he said the speaker seems confident about his chances and predicted that he will win re-election.
He described the weekend gathering as “just a planning meeting to kind of see where everybody is at. I don’t think there is anything unusual or earth-shaking,” he said.