Rep. Straus says lead in speaker's race is growing

AUSTIN (AP) - Republican Rep. Joe Straus says nearly two-thirds of his fellow members support his candidacy for Texas House speaker now that Tom Craddick has backed out of the race.

During an exclusive interview Monday with The Associated Press, Straus announced he had 92 of 150 House members backing him for the powerful job. Straus says more would be coming on his team ahead of the formal Jan. 13 vote.

A wealthy San Antonio businessman, Straus said he was looking to heal wounds and push reforms in the badly divided House chamber. He said he would work to reduce the influence of special interests groups in Austin.

Straus was planning to hold an 11:30 news conference in Austin Monday.

Craddick is the current Speaker and the longest serving Republican in state elective office. He gave up his re-election bid Sunday night.