Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Republican leaders must acknowledge that they are to blame..."

McCaig: Tom Craddick must step down as speaker of the Texas House


Mark McCaig, State Republican Executive Committe Member
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

With Election Day quickly approaching, it has become clear to many conservatives that a Democratic takeover of the Texas House of Representatives is a very real possibility. What was once a 26-seat Republican majority in 2003 has dwindled to an eight-seat majority today, and that number will almost certainly shrink again this year. The Republican Party simply cannot afford any more losses in the Legislature, let alone a return to Democratic control.

The only way to prevent further erosion of the Republican majority in the Texas House is for Tom Craddick to immediately announce that he will not seek another term as speaker.

Republican leaders must acknowledge that they are to blame for squandering their legislative majority instead of blaming others or pretending nothing is wrong. New Republican leadership would go a long way to repair the tarnished image of the party in the minds of traditionally Republican voters who have become disenchanted with politics in Austin.

In addition to his failed leadership, Craddick has abandoned the conservative principles he was elected on and promoted a lobby-driven agenda at the expense of issues important to ordinary Texans.

Fiscal conservatives have had little to celebrate under Craddick's tenure. State spending has increased by more than 40 percent since 2003, and the most recent state budget included millions of dollars in so-called special items for Craddick's Midland-area district. Additionally, bills filed by conservative legislators to reduce property appraisal caps and limit state spending were sent by Craddick to committees where they faced certain death. Craddick also supported the oppressive business margins tax, which will likely come under scrutiny during next legislative session because of the adverse impact it has had on small businesses.

Craddick's legislative failures are not limited to fiscal issues. He was instrumental in passing special interest bills protecting influential industries such as homebuilders, pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance companies at the expense of consumers and injured individuals. At the same time, bills important to conservatives on issues such as illegal immigration and gun rights died because of opposition from the business lobby. He has also remained steadfastly opposed to changes in the tuition deregulation law he helped pass that has resulted in skyrocketing tuition rates across the state.

An ethical cloud also surrounds Craddick because of his close ties to lobbyists. Last year, Craddick and a prominent lobbyist were sued by a tour company after a dispute over a fishing trip to Brazil that Craddick and the lobbyist had canceled. Financial disclosure forms filed by Craddick also show a business relationship with a lobbyist whose identity he refuses to disclose. In light of recent scandals, grass-roots Republicans must demand that their leaders act in a manner that is beyond reproach.

In nearly 40 years in the Legislature, Craddick helped build the Republican Party and the conservative movement in Texas. Unfortunately, his recent actions have cast a shadow on years of public service, and he must recognize that the best way to promote the Republican Party and the conservative values he claims to represent is to allow a new speaker to serve.

McCaig represents state Senate District 18, which includes Bastrop and Caldwell counties, on the committee.

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