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Tom Craddick not challenging Jim Pitts in race

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STAFF REPORT
The Ellis County Press
ARLINGTON - House Speaker Tom Craddick told The Ellis County Press last week that a primary challenger to state Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, from his supporters was not known, saying he had 'no idea what [they're doing down there].'

The question and answer session occurred before Craddick's speech to several local Republican clubs in a west Arlington manufacturing facility.

Pitts and Craddick have been at odds since the earlier in the year, when Pitts mounted a challenge to Craddick for the speakership, which fell in Republican hands in 2003, the first time in more than 100 years.

Craddick, first elected from Midland in 1968, has been criticized by members of his own party and the media for his strict governing style. He appointed Pitts to chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee two years ago, and demoted Pitts after the speaker's race.

Pitts later lost the speaker's race, but Waxahachie's representative, in office since 1992, said he'll mount another challenge next year.

The response from Craddick and his allies in Austin were clear: opponents in challenger's districts would be urged to run - at the backing of Craddick's extensive financial resources - in the primaries.

Pitts has told The Dallas Morning News for the past month in three separate articles he is counting on a primary challenger, which would be only his second in his career.

Pitts' last primary challenge was last year, when the former Waxahachie school trustee trounced Midlothian ISD school board president Duke Burge by an 80-20 margin.

Journalists picked up on the primary rumors when a local blog mentioned Midlothian Mayor Boyce Whatley considering a run, a prediction that was discounted by Whatley in a recent Dallas Morning News column.

Speculation is now centering on former Waxahachie councilman Jay Barksdale, who was working for Democrat Martin Frost early in his congressional career, but Barksdale, when approached earlier this year about the topic, would not confirm or deny the rumor.

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