A candidate running for speaker of the Texas House believes he has his election all sewn up according to citizen sources in his district.
According to several activists in East Texas, State Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) has told a number of his constituents that he believes he has the votes necessary to win the speaker’s gavel.
First elected in 2012, Clardy is foreseeably on track to win his fourth term in the Texas House in November. Since taking office, Clardy has served as one of the chamber’s most liberal Republicans, earning straight F’s on the Fiscal Responsibility Index for his votes against tort reform, ending wasteful spending, and providing tax relief to hardworking Texans.
It’s for those reasons that a number of conservative organizations opted to endorse his opponent in the Republican Primary election. Though Clardy won the primary election, he hasn’t made up with individuals in Republican circles. Texans for Lawsuit Reform notably passed over Clardy in their endorsements this November—likely due to Clardy’s decision be one of three Republicans who voted against their hailstorm litigation legislation last session.
It’s perhaps because of that liberal record that Clardy isn’t claiming to have a majority of Republicans backing him in his bid for speaker. Instead, sources say Clardy is claiming his support is derived from a mere handful of Republicans and large numbers of Democrats.
Outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) and his allies employed a similar strategy in their successful coup d’état against Republican Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland in 2009. If Clardy can secure the commitments of a small number of Republicans to vote for him no matter what, he can ostensibly broker a deal with the Democrats in order to win election as speaker.
Multiple sources in East Texas say that’s just what Clardy claims he’s planning to do. One Austin lobbyist told Texas Scorecard that Clardy hasn’t just bragged of Democrat support in his district, but also in Austin, telling some of them, “I own the Democrats. I own the Valley.”
Whether the rumors (or Clardy’s alleged statements) are true is yet to be seen, but Clardy is making clear and open overtures to Democrats for their support.
In a recent interview in Austin, Clardy hedged on whether the next speaker should be the result of the Republican caucus’ deliberation and noted that he has been campaigning to not just Republicans but also Democrats. In the interview view, Clardy went as far as to promise that Democrats would hold committee chairmanships proportional to their representation—a move that would deprive Republicans of those positions and stifle conservative reforms.
Clardy very well may have a handful of Republicans willing to back him and he may even have the support of Democrats who see in him a way to continue Straus’ coalition government.
But he likely doesn’t have the votes necessary to become the nominee of the Republican Caucus.
Indeed, Clardy and House Democrats will only have the power to elect him speaker if Republicans surrender to him either by voting for him in caucus because he argues he already has the votes or standing down or by refusing to elect someone else from among their ranks and challenge him on the floor.
There is no Republican member of the Texas House who could survive re-election after partnering openly with Democrats to defeat a Republican nominee for speaker. That includes Clardy and any members who are conspiring with him.