The iron fist in Texas is on his way out. No, not George Bush. Texas House Speaker Republican Tom Craddick has withdrawn his candidacy for a fourth term as Speaker of the Texas State House of Representatives. Even Craddick’s hand-picked crony has taken his name out of the race. The only man left standing is a Republican from San Antonio, Joe Straus. Texas Democrats who are slightly outnumbered in the State House of Representatives (76 Republicans to 74 Democrats) united behind Straus and enlisted some Republican supporters to form a presumably winning coalition which should propel him to the post Tuesday.

The House Speaker position is extremely powerful in Texas. The Speaker calls the shots on most legislation and shapes state policy.. The Speaker appoints all legislative committees and their chairs and has the power to make sure bills pass or die. Craddick used an iron fist to smash any legislation he did not like.

Craddick was an anti-labor partisan who brought about his own fall by a heavy handed style. In the last attempt to oust him, he simply refused to recognize those legislators who moved to have him removed.

Straus is expected to be more moderate on social issues, is expected to employ a more reasonable style and will go into the job owing Democrats big time. He also has a history of butting heads with Craddick and his cronies by voting against school vouchers and voting for health care for low income children. He has opposed Craddick on some abortion issues as well.

AFL-CIO Communications Director, Ed Sills, writes “In terms of labor policy, he is precisely one step above the Craddick level. Last session, he supported a ‘meet and confer’ bill for Austin and voted to bar state spending on vouchers that would steer funds from public to private schools. He voted against other Texas AFL-CIO positions in every other case, except one vote where he did not weigh in on either side. No one will accuse him of being liberal and the substantive difference between Straus and Craddick is not as likely to be noticed as the procedural difference.”

Sills also notes “But it’s not a Craddick House any more and progress sometimes takes a step at a time.”