Austin_A seemingly late legislative win for Republicans may have secured the GOP majority in the Texas state House, if only by a razor-thin 2-seat margin.
With a crowded field of candidates and no clear alternative to Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick, the narrow 76-74 majority appears to give momentum back to Craddick in the volatile speaker's race - and all but guarantees the next speaker will not be a Democrat.
"Speaker Craddick is extremely organized and very good at what he does," said Democratic former state Rep. Sherri Greenberg, now a fellow at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for Politics and Governance.
Until Tuesday, all eyes had been fixed on the Irving seat held by Republican Rep. Linda Harper-Brown. But after the count of overseas and provisional ballots was completed late Monday, the incumbent held a 20-vote lead over her Democratic challenger.
If the late count had turned in the Democrat's favor, it would have meant an even 75-75 split in the House. Now, it seems the race is Craddick's to lose.
Disarray, rather than organization, seems to have prevailed for the group known as ABCs - Anybody But Craddick.
His Republican and Democratic opponents are divided and, as yet, unable to coalesce behind one of the three Republican or four Democratic alternatives to the powerful speaker. It's much the same scenario the ABCs were in last year, when they twice tried and failed to oust Craddick from the post.
Craddick's detractors have long complained that he rules the chamber like a dictator and strong-arms lawmakers into obedience. The chaos came to head during last year's legislative session, which ended with Craddick surviving a bitter attempt to overthrow him.
The 150-member chamber will choose their leader with a vote during the first week of the legislative session, which begins Jan. 13.
Last week's elections gave Democrats a three-seat gain in the House, narrowing their minority status to within two seats.
In the last five years, Republicans have squandered a 26-seat majority that had given them free rein in the chamber and made Craddick the first Republican speaker in modern times.
Associated Press writer Jay Root contributed to this report.April Castro, AP Writer © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.