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Crazy Ants, The New King Of The Hill, And A GOP State Office Shakeup

Dietrich Gotzek, Seán G. Brady, Robert J. Kallal, John S. LaPolla

We take a look forward to the 2014 election as there could be room for some new GOP faces in established state offices as campaign funding season kicks off in the middle of June. Fire ants have been the bane of every Texan's existence for a long time, but the stinging pests are now being displaced by crazy ants, which is a good and bad thing.

Gearing up for campaign funding season

In the past week, one legislative session ended and before anyone could come to terms with what did and didn't happen, a special session was called to deal specifically with redistricting.

Gov. Rick Perry is the only person who knows if more issues will be added to the call, and that’s not the only fun fact that he’s keeping to himself these days.

People want to know if he is going to run again for governor or president.

Austin political junkies are trying to guess what he’ll do and among them is Harvey Kronberg, editor of the QuorumReport.Com.

"The suspicion is that he goes off for a couple years, becomes the elder statesman of the Texas economic miracle, and continues consolidating his position with the values voters that he, in the past, has been very popular with...based on the flurry of activity around [Texas Attorney Greg] Abbott and the virtual absence of activity around Perry suggests that the governor may not seek re-election."

With Perry's re-election bid uncertain and the recent announcement of State Comptroller Susan Combs that she will not seek another term, we are starting to see some movement within the Republican Party as people jockey for position.

"It has caused a scramble up and down the ballot for a variety of offices--for virtually every office, actually. Don't forget we already do have at least one challenger for governor, and that's Tom Pauken, former Republican Party chair, former chair of the Texas Workforce Commission and big player in education politics. Lieutenant governor's race, we have three announced candidates and we probably have two unannounced candidates, and it goes down the list."

Fire ants no longer king of the hill in Texas

Raspberry Crazy Ants are spreading across the state and causing problems (they are actually called crazy ants, we didn't just make that up). They earned their name from their erratic pattern of movement. You’ll find them closer to the coast, but they have been spotted in San Antonio as well.

These little creatures are native to South America and have recently settled in Texas. They are loving it here. There is plenty of food, no predators and the local species of ants can’t compete--even fire ants.

Edward LeBrun is a researcher at the University of Texas and a co-author of a recent study published in the journal "Biological Invasions."

"The displacement of fire ants, although it is a good thing from some perspectives--both human and ecological--it has negative consequences as well. Crazy ants don't sting, so that is an improvement particularly for folks who are allergic to fire ant stings, however, the data that we have to date says that they have larger impacts on arthropods, which are insects and spiders, and they reduce their abundance more than imported fire ants do and they also reduce the species diversity of these insects and arachnids."

*Crazy ant picture found from related study at www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0045314

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi