by Max Brantley
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE
Two more county recounts have been completed in the four-county canvass of votes in the House District 52 race, which put Republican John Hutchison of Harrisburg 45 votes (one more provisional ballot was added to Hutchison's total reported earlier by the AP) ahead of Democrat L.J. Bryant of Grubbs. If it's upheld, Republicans have a 51-vote majority in the House.
Craighead County was completed last week without change. Jackson County has completed a recount, again with no change in the vote tally, said Democratic Party spokeswoman Candace Martin. That leaves Poinsett, which is being recounted today, and Independence, which is to be recounted Thursday.
UPDATE: Martin now informs me that Bryant picked up five votes in the Poinsett recount, narrowing the margin to 40 votes. So Thursday will tell the tale, though I'm told Poinsett was the most likely spot for any changes.
The House is also set to meet Thursday so that a vote can be held to re-elect or reject Democrat Darrin Williams as House speaker designate for 2013. If the Republican majority votes en bloc as expected, Williams' ascension to be the first African-American House speaker will be denied. Then a new election will be held. Republicans have said they intend to elect Rep. Terry Rice. The vote is by secret ballot. There's always a chance of a surprise in such a circumstance, but nobody I know believes that's a serious possibility. Then the question will be whether Rice follows recent custom when Democrats were in control by appointing some Democrats to committee chairmanships.
UPDATE II: But......what if a compromise speaker candidate emerged from the Republican side. A member that Democrats would support rather than playing a race card? An obvious such candidate exists. Just saying it aloud at this point. But watch this space.
UPDATE III: Back to the recount for a minute. There are still some provisional ballots hanging, at least 12 in Poinsett County and an undetermined number in Jackson County. There could yet be some in Independence. I don't know yet if they total enough - even if all went for the Democrat - to change the outcome. These are ballots that were not counted election day but have been ruled eligible for counting. They'll be counted Friday if the outcome could be affected, according to a recount watcher who spoke to me.