State Rep. Glen Casada enlisted the help of Tea Party leaders and gun rights leaders to campaign for House Speaker, the target audience being incoming freshmen Republican House members who might make the difference in a close race.
The groups targeted state Rep. Beth Harwell as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) soft on gun bills and the over-the-top attacks got personal and ugly.
But the veteran Republican House members know Harwell; she's been there since 1988. She is widely liked and respected. The members were horrified at the distortions and the attacks. The final straw was when Casada opened the caucus meeting to allow his third-party supporters to attend, widely seen as an attempt to intimidate members into voting for the "more conservative" Casada.
But the ballot was secret and the vote made Harwell the Republican candidate for speaker. Members believe it was the incumbent House members reacting to Casada's tactics that turned the tide. Harwell had also traveled the state, having dinner with incoming freshmen, demonstrating that she did not have horns and making the case for her conservative voting record.
Harwell is set to become the first woman to hold the office of speaker. But a woman wielding power in the House is not a new thing. Democratic state Rep. and Pro Tem Lois DeBerry has long been one of the most powerful members of the House.