And then there were seven.

That's seven declared candidates for speaker of the 150-member Texas House of Representatives – so far. More candidates may yet decide to get in. After all, the speaker's office is not often up for grabs, with no incumbent seeking re-election.

Whichever member can first get, and hold, 76 votes – including his or her own – will be elected speaker on the first day of the legislative session.

The gaggle of candidates comes because House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is not seeking re-election. He's giving up the job after five two-year terms. He'll wrap up his 10 years as speaker on Jan. 8, when the 2019 regular legislative session begins.

That same day, the winner of the first wide-open race for the job in more than two decades will be officially elected by the House.

If history is a guide, the winner will have already become apparent not long after the Nov. 6 election, when it becomes clear which House members have been elected and re-elected – or not.

And, if history is a guide, someone may have gotten enough pledges from those who will be in the House next session to essentially claim the office ahead of time by releasing a list of committed supporters.

That was what happened in the last open election. Moderate Democrat Pete Laney, a low-key, well-liked 20-year House veteran from Hale Center in the Panhandle, had gathered enough pledges that he was able to declare victory before the 1993 legislative session began.

When Laney was officially elected and sworn in as speaker on the Jan. 12 opening day of the 1993 session, it was just a formality, ratifying the reality that had already occurred.

On the other hand, the speaker contest could actually go to the House floor on opening day. But that is rare.

The declared speaker candidates so far are Republicans Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches; Drew Darby of San Angelo; Phil King of Weatherford; Tan Parker of Flower Mound; Walter Thomas Price IV, known as Four Price, of Amarillo; John Zerwas of Richmond; and Democrat Eric Johnson of Dallas.

The method of choosing the House's presiding officer is quite a bit different from that of the Senate on the other side of the capitol.

While the House chooses its leader from among its members, the Texas Constitution designates the lieutenant governor as the president of the 31-member Senate.

The lieutenant governor is elected every four years by the people of Texas. Republican Dan Patrick is seeking a second term, opposed by Democrat Mike Collier.

While the Texas lieutenant governor is correctly considered the most powerful lieutenant governor in the country, much of that power derives not from the constitution, but from the Senate rules, passed – or continued – at the start of every regular legislative session.

It is those rules that give the lieutenant governor the power to appoint committees and their chairs, to essentially set the Senate's daily calendar, to decide to which committees to refer bills, to decide whom to recognize on the Senate floor to bring up legislation, and other matters.

The lieutenant governor also sits on the 10-member Legislative Budget Board, which decides a draft budget in advance of legislative sessions. The lieutenant governor appoints the four senators who are its other members from the Senate side.

The Texas Senate and House have chosen not to follow the lead of congress and most other legislatures and organize on a partisan basis. In those bodies, the party in the majority chooses a majority leader, all the committee chairmen, and so on. The minority is sort of along for the ride.

In the Texas House, it will be a new experience for the candidates who are running for speaker, and for almost all other House members, to go through a wide-open speaker's race.

Only a half-dozen of the 150 members were in the House the last time there was a race without an incumbent seeking re-election.

That was leading up to the 1993 legislative session. The outgoing speaker, moderate-conservative Democrat Gib Lewis of Fort Worth, decided to give up the job after serving five two-year terms – the record up to that point.

Since then, Laney has tied that 10-year longevity record, and Straus will tie it in January.

The House currently has 95 Republicans and 55 Democrats. The Democrats hope to add to their number, but are unlikely to become a majority.

Most of the Republican caucus voted late last year to bind the Republicans to vote for whoever gets a two-thirds majority in the caucus.

Democrats, assuming they don't regain a majority, may hope to join with maverick Republicans to achieve enough votes to choose a speaker – probably a Republican. That's what happened when Straus became speaker.

Stay tuned for lots of things happening in the next few months.