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August 2nd, 2012:

What will The Dew do next?

David Dewhurst

So Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst isn’t going anywhere next January. I’m going to put aside the questions of what happened for now and ask instead what happens in 2014? As we know, there are three people running for what they originally thought would be an open seat race for Lite Guv in 2014. What happens if Dewhurst decides, as Rick Perry may have also done, to run for re-election again? Do the dominoes stand or fall?

Whatever you may think about Dewhurst and his campaign, the fact that he got his butt handed to him on Tuesday doesn’t mean he’d be easy to beat in a 2014 primary. For one thing, it’s unlikely that there will be millions of dollars spent by outside agitators in the service of calling Dewhurst names. For another thing, three candidates who have each been elected statewide at least twice and have held office for a lot longer than that are hardly the insurgent fresh-faced outsider that Ted Cruz managed to portray himself as. I’m not saying that Dewhurst would be a lock – he might have to learn how to campaign, for one thing – but he’s hardly a dead man walking, either. The conditions that led to his defeat here will not be in play in two years’ time.

So as I said before, we could have a situation where there are no open non-judicial statewide offices in 2014. It’s too early to know what Combs, Staples, and Patterson might do, but here’s something that occurred to me in the waning days of the Senate primary: As far as I could tell, Greg Abbott stayed on the sidelines in that race. If he was supporting either Cruz or Dewhurst, he was mighty low key about it. I bring this up because it seems to me that Abbott had a low cost, low risk way of test driving opposition to Rick Perry by supporting Cruz. I mean, Cruz used to work for Abbott, so surely it wouldn’t have been too much of a surprise for Abbott to announce that as much as he liked Dewhurst he’s going to support his former employee. With a little savvy, he could have worked that into some conversations with media folks in the days leading up to the runoff, as Cruz’s chances looked better and better, perhaps appearing with Perry’s former BFF Sarah Palin at that Cruz rally in the Woodlands, all the while pooh-poohing the idea that this was somehow a proxy for a future gubernatorial primary. But hey, what do I know? For more thoughts on Tuesday’s runoffs, see Robert Miller, Harold Cook, and Forrest Wilder.

Now you see those votes, now you don’t

Tuesday was not a good day for the County Clerk.

Zerick Guinn went to bed late Tuesday, believing he had won the Democratic nomination for Precinct 2 constable by a comfortable margin. By morning, he had lost the race by three votes.

An incorrect vote tally in that race, posted for more than two and a half hours on the Harris County Clerk’s website, was one of several problems that plagued Tuesday’s runoff elections.


Stanart acknowledged he and his staff did not catch that the posted tallies were wrong. He spoke with Guinn Wednesday morning and the two have scheduled a meeting Thursday. The problem arose, Stanart said, in merging two databases of data from the machines that tally the votes to the machine that produces a report of the results.

In Guinn’s race, the clerk’s website showed him leading Chris Diaz 2,695 votes to 1,908 votes shortly after 10 p.m. When final results were posted at 12:43 a.m., however, Guinn’s reported vote total dropped by 634 votes, placing him three votes behind Diaz, at 2,064 to 2,061.

Stanart said he saw problems in a not-yet-published report of GOP results shortly before midnight, and began running both parties’ results from scratch. Stanart said he initially thought the problem was isolated to the report he had just run on the computer he was using, and, thus, did not pull the faulty numbers off the county website and did not inform Democrats because their numbers were being generated by a different computer.

By late Wednesday, Stanart said, he had learned both parties’ results online from 10:12 p.m. until at least 12: 43 a.m., were wrong, though he stressed only the outcome of Guinn’s race had changed.

The early version of this story is on Houston Politics. The Chron reported the wrong result based on that 10:12 PM update, as did I. You can see the erroneous 10:12 PM update here, and the 12:43 AM update here. While only the Guinn-Diaz race outcome was affected, it wasn’t the only one to show funny numbers. This is what you would have seen on the Democratic results page Tuesday night and Wednesday morning:

A new version of the results as of 4:01 PM fixed that error. I called the Clerk’s office prior to that to ask about this, and they assured me that they were aware of it and that it was the result of the same problem that was in the Constable race. They also told me that the error occurred not in the counting of the votes but in the reporting. That agrees with what Stanart says in the Chron story, so there you have it.

Regardless, these are still unofficial results until the HCDP canvasses them. In the meantime, there are still provisional ballots and some overseas ballots to be counted, so given the extreme closeness of the race, the outcome is still in doubt. A recount and more litigation are possible as well. Campos and Stace have more.

UPDATE: PDiddie adds on.

It was more than drought that killed the trees

So say the experts.

Don’t blame the drought for killing an estimated 506 million trees in Texas. At least, don’t blame it exclusively.

The drought is only part of the story of why trees are dying, according to a new report by the AgriLife Extension Service at Texas A&M University.

In most cases, the report says, the trees that died in 2011 were already stressed from pre-existing factors such as overcrowding, growing on the wrong site, age, soil compaction, trenching or inappropriate use of herbicides.

“If not for these factors, a large proportion of the trees that died might have recovered from the drought,” according to the report by Dr. Eric Taylor, a forestry specialist with the extension service.

The 2011 drought “severely weakened mature trees, making them susceptible to opportunistic pathogens like hypoxylon canker and insects like pine bark engraver beetles,” Taylor said in the report.

The report helps explain to the public what experts see, said Jim Houser, a forest health coordinator with the Texas Forest Service.

“That’s true, we tend to simplistically (blame) the drought,” Houser said. “In actuality, it’s a variety of problems that tend to combine together to kill trees. Certainly, the drought is the main problem.”

You can read the report here. The point they’re making is that if the overall health of our trees had been better to begin with, we’d have lost fewer of them during the drought. The trees that did survive are likely to be weaker than before, so their health will need to be safeguarded as well.

Houser said Central Texans can still save their trees if they water.

“It’s very easy to say, ‘It doesn’t matter if my grass dies; I can replant,’ ” Houser said. Trees are another matter.

“They shouldn’t abandon their trees,” he said.

A good way to water your tree is to take one of those big plastic paint buckets, poke a hole or two near the bottom, put it next to your tree, and fill it with water from your garden hose. The bucket holds enough water for a good drink, and the holes allow the water to be released slowly enough to really soak in. That’s what we (and by “we” I mean “Tiffany”) did for our trees last year, anyway. Hope this helps.

Texas blog roundup for the week of July 30

The Texas Progressive Alliance is overloading on the Olympics as it brings you this week’s roundup.