Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has announced his desire to seek a third term as lieutenant governor. It’s way too early to engage in such endorsements. After all, he might just want to be a senator. But that, of course, hinges on what our state’s senior senator does, or doesn’t do, in the weeks ahead.

As lieutenant governor, Dewhurst this year championed a tight budget limit for the new biennium as a member of the Legislative Budget Board. The LBB is charged with establishing the state’s spending limit, and they set the tightest limit in recent memory. That action alone — restraining the dollars available for lawmakers to play with — kept the state steady in an otherwise turbulent economic year.

Frankly, many folks suspect Dewhurst is angling to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat, should Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison resign to cement her challenge to Gov. Rick Perry. (The list of declared contenders include Michael Williams, Roger Williams, Florence Shapiro, Elizabeth Ames Jones…)

Of course, Hutchison isn’t legally required to vacate the seat, which means it would only come open should she win the primary and general election.

But that would put Dewhurst and many others in a pickle. She could resign right after the primary and let Perry appoint her successor in time for a special election sometime in 2010.

Except that would leave holes in the general election ballot as current officeholders (like Dewhurst) jockey for her seat. But if someone is on the ballot for, say, lite guv, they probably wouldn’t want the bad press of vying for two positions in one calendar year.

Heck, it might not even be legal. The possibilities certainly makes the head spin.

it’s possible Hutchison might just plan to hold the seat until early January 2011, resigning moments before swearing in and making the appointment herself. Who she would choose would be a tough test as her first gubernatorial act. And would be sure to infuriate many at just the moment — the start of a legislative session — when she would presumably want every state officeholder happy.

Given the costs involved in all these races, the dominoes waiting fall rests with a simple question: What will Kay do? And the follow-up: When will she do it?

She said in August a decision might come this fall. Or might not. The various statements offered excelled at providing a lack of clarity.

regardless, the election clock is ticking with an expensive meter running. The ball is squarely in her court. With her decision rests not just the tone of the gubernatorial race, but in many ways the make-up of the 2010 ballot.

A lot of people are spending a lot of time and money jockeying for positions based on speculation about what Hutchison will or will not do, and what others will or won’t do as a result. That’s time and money the conservative movement is losing in the recruitment of candidates and the winning of down-ballot races.

I hope she moves that ball sooner than later; ending the speculation for good. The longer she waits, the more tenuous the situation becomes in a year when conservatives need everything working just right for victory.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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