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Inside Intelligence: If Dewhurst Leaves...

In this latest round of our unscientific survey of political and government insiders, we ask which senators might be choosing the next lieutenant governor and whether anyone outside the Capitol will have a say in that decision.

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You remember the race for speaker in late 2010 and early 2011, with the challenge to House Speaker Joe Straus from within the House and without?

If David Dewhurst moves out of the lieutenant governor's office after the 2012 elections, we could get a repeat — on steroids. That's the situation we took to the insiders this week. If Dewhurst is elected to the U.S. Senate and moves on, or if Rick Perry is elected president and Dewhurst moves up, or some combination of those things, what'll happen to the Senate?

A quick bit of business if you're new to this game: The presiding officer would be chosen, in those circumstances, not by voters, but by the 31 senators themselves, and from their own ranks. That's how state Sen. Bill Ratliff became Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff in 2000, after George W. Bush won the presidency and Perry ascended to the governor's office.

Most of the insiders — 61 percent — say outside groups will play a significant role in an election to replace Dewhurst (only 1 percent was undecided). Around that number — 64 percent — think that the Senate's two-thirds rule will be an issue. Some Republicans don't like the idea that the GOP majority in the Senate is a few votes short of what's needed to control the agenda there — they'd like to lose that minority-empowering rule.

That partisan fever leads to the question of which senators will do the choosing. Will it be the whole Senate, or will the majority party — the Republicans — make the choice among themselves and vote as a bloc when the matter is before the full Senate? About a third of the insiders — 35 percent — think it'll be decided by Republicans alone. Another 63 percent think the next Lite Guv will be picked by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats.

As usual, we asked for comments, and the full replies are attached. Here's a sampling:

Who'll choose David Dewhurst's replacement?

• "The coalition will be weighted to favor Republicans but give the appearance of taking Democrat input."

• "The D's will vote as a block and pick their Lt Gov"

• "More than likely Dewhurst will remain Lt. Governor as he will fall short in the senate race."

• "Follow the House model. It's really a coalition choice, but it's made to appear like just the Republican majority made the selection."

• "Too many egos to placate. Tea party will demand purity."

Will outside groups play a significant role in the contest?

• "Because the D's will vote as block the GOP groups will descend upon Austin to make sure their senator votes the "right" way"

• "Outside groups showed the limits of their influence with the Straus debacle."

• "Business and GOP orgs"

• "Outside groups have always played a significant role. They once were called Labor Unions and Trial Lawyers."

• "They will stir the conversation. But if such a pick takes place, it will be by secret ballot--the precedent has been set already--so their impact will be less than they'd like or the press would have you believe"

Will the Senate's two-thirds rule be an issue in the race?

• "The majority needs the two-thirds rule nearly as much as the minority does to keep them from taking bad votes."

• "But Dewhurst opened the door himself with the 3/5 rule. The GOP will get what it wants, tradition be damned."

• "For Dan Patrick only."

• "Old good rules are dying. They apply only when unnecessary."

• "No one understands it outside of Austin."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Clyde Alexander, Jay Arnold, Jim Arnold, Louis Bacarisse, Charles Bailey, Reggie Bashur, Walt Baum, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Hugh Brady, Steve Bresnen, Linda Bridges, Andy Brown, Blaine Bull, Lydia Camarillo, Marc Campos, Snapper Carr, Tris Castaneda, George Cofer, Rick Cofer, John Colyandro, Hector De Leon, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Jeff Eller, Alan Erwin, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Terry Frakes, Kyle Frazier, Wil Galloway, Neftali Garcia, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Scott Gilmore, Eric Glenn, Thomas Graham, Jack Gullahorn, Billy Hamilton, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Albert Hawkins, Adam Haynes, Susan Hays, Laura Huffman, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Mark Jones, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Ramey Ko, Kenneth Kramer, Tim Lambert, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, James LeBas, Donald Lee, Luke Legate, Leslie Lemon, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, J. McCartt, Suzi McClellan, Dan McClung, Parker McCollough, Scott McCown, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Steve Murdock, Craig Murphy, Keats Norfleet, Todd Olsen, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Bill Pewitt, Jerry Philips, Wayne Pierce, Kraege Polan, Jay Propes, Bill Ratliff, Karen Reagan, Jason Sabo, Luis Saenz, Mark Sanders, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Steve Scurlock, Bradford Shields, Patricia Shipton, Ed Small, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Tom Spilman, Bob Stein, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Jay Thompson, Russ Tidwell, Trey Trainor, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Michael Wilt, Alex Winslow, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

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