AUSTIN — With less than a week before the Tuesday election, energized Texas Democrats believe that they are within striking distance of reclaiming control of the Texas House of Representatives but are confronting a fierce push-back from besieged House Speaker Tom Craddick and Republican allies battling to retain their slim GOP majority.
A Democratic takeover in the 150-member House would propel Craddick from the speakership and return Republicans to minority status for the first time since taking over the House in 2003. Democrats also hope to weaken Republican control in the Senate but acknowledge – as do many independent analysts – that their chance for a takeover in the state’s upper-chamber is remote.
While the crown jewel of the 2008 election has been the presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, the races for the state House – both collectively and individually – are immensely important to the day-to-day lives of average Texans. The Legislature will return to work on Jan. 13 for its biennial 140-day session to deal with property and sales taxes, public education, immigration, transportation, criminal justice and a laundry list of other state priorities.
Even if the House stays in Republican control, Craddick, who is expected to win re-election against a Democratic challenger in his Midland district, faces a certain challenge for his leadership post when House members hold the speaker election at the outset of the session. Democrats and a group of insurgent Republicans banded together in two unsuccessful efforts to oust Craddick during the last legislative session in 2007.
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