- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

DALLAS — Two conservative Republicans from the Dallas area joined forces yesterday in a move to oust Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick.

But Mr. Craddick, a Republican legislator from Midland in western Texas, said he still had enough votes to win re-election to the post on Tuesday.

Rep. Brian McCall of Plano stunned his supporters yesterday by endorsing fellow Republican Rep. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie at a press conference in Austin.

In their brief appearance, the two challengers vowed Mr. Pitts would win the speakership, but they refused to list their backers.

They said they did not want to expose the supporters to intense pressure before the vote.

“But I guarantee you,” Mr. Pitts said, “the race is over.”

Mr. Craddick’s press secretary, Alexis DeLee, downplayed the development, calling it “just another version of the same story.” She said Mr. Craddick remained “confident” of victory when the House convenes next week in Austin.

“Our numbers are continuing to grow,” she added.

Mr. McCall, backed by many Democrats, was publicly criticized for having so many opposition-party supporters, which some Craddick allies cited as a strong reason to re-elect the speaker. The Democrats trail the Republicans by an 80-69 margin in the Texas House.

Mr. Craddick, who served 34 years before he was named the first Republican House speaker in January 2003, was easily re-elected in 2005.

Mr. Pitts said he would not release his list of backers because “they would risk retribution for being on that list.”

He added, “That is why I am running for speaker of the House.”

“We deserve a speaker who will lead by consensus, not by edicts,” he said.

The head of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum warned Tuesday that to unseat Mr. Craddick would be to return power to Democrats.

“Our conservative agenda would be [dead on arrival],” said Cathie Adams. “We’ve worked too hard for too many years to win a Republican majority in the House just to hand it over to the Democrats.”

Democratic caucus leader Jim Dunnam of Waco said the Republicans will control the House no matter who is speaker.

“The fact is: They have the majority and we’re in the minority,” Mr. Dunnam said.

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