AUSTIN -- Four Republican House members say House Speaker Tom Craddick, the first Republican speaker in modern times, is dropping his bid for a fourth term.
Craddick became speaker in 2003 and quickly pushed through a conservative agenda of congressional redistricting, lawsuit limitations and a new business tax.
Republican Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock said Sunday night he had talked to some of Craddick's staff and said it was over for Craddick. Aycock has remained a Craddick ally amid a swirl of opposition and an opponent who has emerged as a frontrunner within the last several hours.
Craddick's tenure has been marked by complaints from Republicans and Democrats that he rules the chamber like a dictator and forces lawmakers to bend to his will.
Republican Rep. Joe Straus released a list of 85 pledges of support Sunday evening, more than enough to win the election on Jan. 13.
Meanwhile, a core group of Republican conservatives, the bedrock of Craddick's coalition, threw its support behind veteran Amarillo Republican Rep. John Smithee, who reportedly entered the race.