Craddick draws more opponents
Now an at-large Midland city councilman has filed to try to do what Craddick's colleagues in the House were unable to do last May: remove him from the Speaker's office.
Bill Dingus, a councilman since 2000 and a self-described "small-time oil man," filed as a Democrat against Craddick in his overwhelmingly Republican district in Midland County.
And, Democrat Dan Barrett won a Dec. 18 runoff in a Fort Worth special election to replace Republican Anna Mowery, who resigned. Barrett did it by beating Mark Shelton, a Republican pediatrician who had said he would vote to keep Craddick as speaker.
And, another Republican House member, Pat Haggerty of El Paso, added his name to the growing list of House members who say they'll oppose Craddick for speaker in 2009.
Dingus, a self-described independent, said he's running because he thinks Midland needs a change. Without mentioning Craddick by name or offense, he indicated Craddick's autocratic behavior in Austin should come to a halt.
"In seven years of serving the people of Midland as an at-large city councilman, I have strived to lead with integrity, honor and good old-fashioned horse sense," Dingus said in his announcement.
"As a city councilman, I have always guided my actions by asking myself, 'What is best for Midland?'" Dingus said. "Over a number of months I have come to believe that what is best for Midland -- and District 82 -- is a change of leadership in Austin."
Dingus said he wants to "ensure that the reputation of good, honest, hard-working citizens of our piece of West Texas is reflected in our representative. People here still believe in handshakes because they still work hard. I want to take that kind of good character and trustworthiness down to Austin."
Craddick, first elected in 1968, issued a statement welcoming Dingus to the race.
It's been such a historically futile proposition to think of beating Craddick in his overwhelming Republican Midland County district that no one has even bothered to try in years.
The district generally votes Republican in the 75 to 80 percent range. Dingus is the first person to run against Craddick since 2000, when Democrat Gilberto M. Garcia got 21.7 percent.
Craddick has $4 million in his campaign account. While Democrats around the state, and some Republicans, welcome Dingus' challenge of the heavy-handed speaker, few give him much of a chance. At best, they hope that it will tie him down some in a race at home, so that he can't concentrate so heavily on trying to unseat Democrats elsewhere in the state.
Dingus seemed unfazed by the challenge.
"I think we will get a lot of crossover vote," Dingus said. "I know I've had a lot of people tell me 'I'll vote for you, I just can't be seen with you in public,'" he added with a laugh.
In El Paso, Haggerty accused Craddick of recruiting an opponent, businessman Dee Margo, against him in the Republican primary.
"It's painfully obvious Tom Craddick found his boy," Haggerty told the El Paso Times.
But Margo told the Times El Paso Republicans, not Craddick, asked him to run. "I'm not beholden to anybody," he said.
Margo had run unsuccessfully against state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh in 2006.
Haggerty said Craddick is bad for El Paso. Money for the Texas Tech University medical school in El Paso was cut out of the House budget at the last minute earlier this year, while money was added for a clinic in Craddick's district.
As for Democrat Barrett's victory in the Fort Worth House district, he would also have to win re-election in 2008 in the Republican-leaning district in order to be around in 2009 to vote in the next speaker's race. Six Republicans had run in the special election, while Barrett, an attorney, was the lone Democrat.
And So On. . . . Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, another of the so-called Craddick D's - Democratic House members who nonetheless supported Craddick - has drawn an opponent in the Democratic primary.
Attorney Brian Thompson, who is white, has announced he'll take on Dukes, an African American now in her seventh two-year term in the predominantly minority district.
"Our families are being left out of our city's prosperity at the same time the incumbent is supporting Tom Craddick's failed Republican ideology of starving public schools and denying children health care," Thompson said.
Reach McNeely at dmcneely@austin. rr.com or (512) 458-2963.