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Texplainer: What If a Lieutenant Governor Resigns?

Hey, Texplainer: Who becomes lieutenant governor if David Dewhurst resigns? Well, it's a little complicated. But the bottom line is, you don't get to decide.

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Hey, Texplainer: Who becomes lieutenant governor if David Dewhurst resigns?

There are two scenarios that would involve Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst resigning his post before his term ends in 2014.

First, Dewhurst could resign at almost any time to concentrate on the 2012 campaign for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat. That is unlikely. If he were to resign now and then lose the campaign, he would be out of a job completely, and he'd probably take some shots for quitting so soon after asking voters for another term. But in the unlikely event Dewhurst took that route, the Senate president pro tempore (currently Steve Ogden, R-Bryan) would assume the duties of lieutenant governor and call the other 30 senators together for a vote. They would elect one of their own to take Dewhurst's place until the next general election — November 2012. That senator would also keep his or her Senate seat and would have the duties and responsibilities of both senator and presiding officer.

A similar succession took place in 2000, when Gov. George W. Bush became president and then-Lt. Gov. Rick Perry moved up to take his place as the state's chief executive. Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant, was elected lieutenant governor.

What’s more likely to happen now, though, is that Dewhurst keeps his post as lieutenant governor and campaigns for the U.S. Senate seat at the same time, which isn't all that hard to do once the legislative session is over. Then, if Dewhurst wins the Senate seat in November 2012, he can resign, and the process described above would happen after he resigns.  

One more variation: If Perry were to end up on a national ticket in 2012, and win, and Dewhurst at the same time won the Senate seat, it would create two openings. The timing introduces some quirks, but generally, the Senate would elect someone to replace Dewhurst, and that person would then move up to take Perry's place as governor. Then the Senate would hold a second election among its members, and that person would take the lieutenant governor's spot.

Or Dewhurst could win that election and decide he'd rather be a governor than a U.S. senator. All he'd have to do is refuse to take the federal oath, keep his state job and move into the big office in the middle of the state Capitol.

Got all that? There just might be a test.


Ever hear something about Texas politics or public policy over and over and wonder what it is? Or read something that made you think, "Huh, I have no idea what that means"? We at the Trib are here to help. From questions about how state government works to why Rick Perry is within his legal right to shoot a coyote while jogging, from what the heck "chubbing" is and why legislators keep talking about it to why the Texas Capitol is bigger than the U.S. Capitol, Texplainer will answer your burning questions. Why are there so many conflicting state budget numbers? What's the Rainy Day Fund for? Why can't the Legislature take up legislation in the first 60 days of the session when it only has 140 days to meet? We'll tell you. We want to hear from you so send us your questions by writing to

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State government 82nd Legislative Session David Dewhurst Griffin Perry Rick Perry Texas Legislature