Wells Dunbar

Social Media Producer, Texas Standard

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media editor for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.

Before joining KUT, Wells served as staff writer and news blog editor at The Austin Chronicle, and covered the Texas Legislature for Gallery Watch. Hailing from El Paso, Wells is a longtime Austin resident whose interests include technology and social media, film and music, and spending quality time with his wife, child and cat.

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2012 Presidential Election
2:04 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Ron Paul to Stay in Race, But Stop Campaigning

Candidate Paul greets supporters at an event last year.
Photo by KUT News

Texas congressman Ron Paul has announced that while he’s not dropping out of the Republican presidential primary, he will no longer be actively campaigning.

“Our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process,” Paul writes on his campaign blog. “We will continue to take leadership positions, win delegates, and carry a strong message to the Republican National Convention that Liberty is the way of the future.”

Indeed, Paul’s delegate strategy – and whether it might create a rift on the convention floor – has been the subject of much speculation.

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Texas Primaries
10:13 am
Mon May 14, 2012

Early Voting in Texas Primaries Starts Today

From one election to the next: Early voting in state and county primaries kicks off today.
Photo by KUT News

It's time to vote – again. On the heels of Austin's city election Saturday, early voting for the state and county primaries starts today, and runs through May 25.

The primary was originally scheduled for March but was pushed back because of disagreements over redistricting. Voters will get to choose the party nominees for President, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, among others.

In Travis County, voters will cast primary ballots for offices including district attorney, sheriff, and more.

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AM Update
8:12 am
Mon May 14, 2012

AM Update: Austin Election Recap, MoPac Toll Lanes Meeting, Drug Violence in Nuevo Leon

The scene Saturday at Scholz Garten, the Leffingwell campaign's election night spot.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Low-Turnout Election Returns Incumbents to Council

Voters returned all four incumbents on the Austin City Council – including Mayor Lee Leffingwell – to the dais on Saturday.

The council members’ fates were revealed as soon as early voting totals were released, with the incumbents – Leffingwell, Place 2 council member Mike Martinez, Place 5 council member Bill Spelman, and Place 6 council member Sheryl Cole – all leading by comfortable margins.

Many of the council members commented on the exceedingly low-turnout in the election – just under five percent in early voting, and roughly the same amount on election day. Similarly, many of the council members also endorsed the idea of moving municipal elections to November, and moving to a form of geographic representation for the city council. Voters will most likely have a chance to vote on those proposals this November.

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City Council Elections
11:32 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Bill Spelman: In Re-Election Win, Validation

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Despite facing down six opponents in his Place 5 re-election bid, Bill Spelman did surprisingly well, winning a second consecutive term without a runoff.  

With 217 of 237 precincts in, Spelman collected 58 percent of the vote. His nearest competitor, Dominic Chavez, only garnered 19 percent.

"This kind of validates one of those things I've been thinking about Austin politics for a long time," Spelman told KUT News. "Even though there's no way you can be on the city council without making everybody angry at least some of the time, in the long run the vast majority of people will forgive you because they understand that. And because they understand you can't govern a great city and have everybody agree on everything all of the time. There's too many differences of opinion in a highly political place like Austin."

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City Council Elections
10:52 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Lee Leffingwell Heading to Re-Election

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

With 52.08 percent of the vote and only 20 precincts outstanding, incumbent Mayor Lee Leffingwell has declared victory.

Mayor Leffingwell just finished delivering a speech to supporters at Scholz Garten, where incumbent Austin City Council member Mike Martinez also recently celebrated success.

Leffingwell came out on top of his two challengers – former city council member Brigid Shea and community activist Clay Dafoe. Leffingwell has narrowly avoided a runoff, coming in with about 52 percent of the vote.

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City Council Elections
10:08 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Mike Martinez: 'We Feel Good'

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

With a steady lead over challenger Laura Pressley, Austin City Council member Mike Martinez just declared victory.

The Place 2 incumbent just finished speaking to supporters minutes ago. KUT News spoke with Martinez shortly before his speech.

"We feel good, Martinez said. "The numbers are still coming in, but you have a ten point lead. We feel like we're on the path to re-election."

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City Council Elections
9:18 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Austin Election Results: Update

Photo courtesy flickr.com/vox_efx

Update (Midnight): Here are the final results.

Mayor’s race

Clay Dafoe: 5,307 10.86%

Lee Leffingwell (incumbent): 25,434 52.06%

Brigid Shea: 18,115 37.08%

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City Council Elections
8:44 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Sheryl Cole Returning to Place 6

Mayor Pro Tem Cole's seat on the City Council is safe.
Daniel Reese/KUT

With a commanding 70 percent of the early vote, it's safe to say Place 6 Austin City Council member Sheryl Cole is assured a third term on the council.

KUT News conducted interviews with all 14 of the candidates running for local office. Cole describes several issues will face this year, including the Austin Energy rate redesign, increasing affordability and more.

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City Council Elections
7:51 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Austin Early Voting Results

Did you follow this graffiti's advice? Only 5% of registered voters voted early.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/ginapina

Early voting results are out in the Austin city elections. All incumbents are in the lead.

In the mayor's race, Lee Leffingwell is leading Brigid Shea by a margin that should probably hold all night.  

In Place 2 things are closer, but incumbent Mike Martinez still leads Laura Pressley.

In the most crowded race, Place 5 incumbent Bill Spelman is having little trouble, with 55% of the vote – currently enough to keep him out of a runoff.

Place 6 council member Sheryl Cole leads challenger Shaun Ireland, 70 percent to 30 percent.

Mayor’s race

Clay Dafoe: 11.10%, 2,287

Lee Leffingwell (incumbent): 55.25%, 11,381

Brigid Shea: 33.65%, 6,932

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Austin
4:50 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

‘No Kill’ and At Capacity: What Should the Austin Animal Center Do Now?

Austin's new home for strays is already operating well above capacity.
Photo by KUT News

The new Austin Animal Center, opened only in November 2011, is already well over capacity. And the city is asking for your input on what to do now.

While the new center has helped with the city’s ‘”no kill” goals – maintaining a 90 percent “live outcomes” rate for pets that pass through the shelter – it’s straining. And it’s not just seasonal, city officials say.

‘Since April the animal intakes at the city shelter are not leveling off and the Animal Services Office can not keep up with the high number of intakes versus those animals that are being adopted or rescued by the City’s partner animal rescue groups,” city officials write in a press release.

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Weather
3:06 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Severe Thunderstorm and Flash Flood Watch for Central Texas

A flash flood watch is expected at 6 p.m. for Central Texas.
Image courtesy National Weather Service

Update: Austin and Central Texas are now under a severe thunderstorm watch. The region has already had a couple of tornado warnings today around San Antonio. But there's still the chance of damaging storms in Austin through the early part of the evening.

"Right now the Austin area remains under a severe thunderstorm watch until 8 o'clock tonight, which is mainly for the possibility of large hail and damaging winds,” says Bob Rose, chief meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority. “But sometimes you can get tornadoes even under a severe thunderstorm watch as well. So it's not totally out of the question because this is a very dynamic system."

Rose says some parts of Central Texas could get up to six inches of rain by tomorrow.

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Austin
2:02 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Artists and Hipsters: Do You Know Who Pasted This Poster Up?

The "Artists & Hipsters" poster, photographed in 2010.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/allaboutgeorge

In East Austin, there’s a sight more common than new condos, food trailers and Tejano bars repurposed into young, hip "dives:" It's the poster seen above.

“Artists & Hipsters: How are you helping to gentrify East Austin? What are you doing to fight it?,” the poster reads. The earliest date we can find for a photo of the poster on Flickr goes back to 2008, but longtime Austinites (including this author) remember seeing the poster even before then.

The poster has captured the attention of one eastside artist, who’s looking to create a dialogue around its message.

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Politics
2:42 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Money Pouring In to U.S. Senate Race

Could what happened to longtime Republican Senator Richard Lugar happen in Texas?

In the aftermath of Lugar’s defeat by Tea Party-backed Richard Mourdock last night, the Associated Press reports that a group that backed Mourdock, the Club for Growth, has announced a $1 million ad buy in Texas.

The target? Long serving Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, currently running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison.

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City Council Elections
12:01 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Video: The Five Weirdest Austin Election Commercials

Lee Leffingwell is as surprised as you are by some of these clips.
Image courtesy youtube.com/TheLeeTeam2012

With early voting in the Austin city elections finished, and a scant four days left until Election Day, campaign ads are increasingly ubiquitous.

But where’s the fun in what's on the airwaves? Most broadcast spots are feel-good, soft-focus spots that have been focus-grouped within an inch of life. No, it’s in the wilds of the Interwebs the Austin politico finds the most entertaining (if not exactly illuminating) clips.

KUT News has combed the digital wastelands to find the strangest campaign ads for this Saturday’s City Council contest. And since sometimes, the WTF? is hiding in plain sight, we’ve including some broadcast spots in this roundup of the five weirdest videos in the Austin city election:

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City Council Elections
10:48 am
Wed May 9, 2012

Early Voting Totals: That’s a Wrap

Early voting totals from Travis County show 2012 turnout between 2009 and 2011 figures.
Image by Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Turnout continued to climb on the final day of early voting for the Austin city elections, although overall turnout never managed to surpass that of Austin’s last mayoral election.

Early voting returns for Tuesday, April 8, showed 6,094 ballots cast in Travis County. (That doesn't include precincts in Williamson County that vote in the Austin elections.) That brought early voting totals to 23,257 ballots – or 4.87 percent of registered voters.

In the image above, you can see how overall early voting in Travis County compares to Austin’s last two general city elections.

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City Council Elections
4:42 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Early Voting Ends Tonight

Austin
2:55 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

The Top 10 Austin Top 10 Lists, Part Two

Austin: The fastest growing, worst driving city for smutty, retired hipsters.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

It being election season in Austin, you’ve likely heard some candidate singing the city’s praises – or blasting Austin’s inclusion on various Top 10 lists as a sign of increasing cost.

KUT News likes to compile the city’s latest Top 10 accolades – but take it one step further, into a Top 10 list of our own. You can see our previous Top 10 list here.  

As we wrote then, to get a gauge of just how many Austin-happy rankings are floating around, we look for “best cities” rankings including Austin over the last few months. And from that, we compiled this meta-master list, a Top 10 of the city’s most recent Top 10 rankings ranging from the apparent, to the arbitrary, to the really, really arbitrary. So without further ado:

1. You grow up so fast!: No surprise here, but Austin’s growing, and growing fast. Forbes ranks Austin Number One in its April 18 study of “America’s Fastest Growing Cities.”

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Texas
11:55 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Davy Crockett, King of the Auction House

A letter from David Crockett, drafted some six months before his death at the Alamo, is for sale.
Letter image courtesy rrauction.com

A letter written by famed frontiersman Davy Crockett on the eve of his trip to Texas is being sold at auction.

The letter, dated September 30, 1835, is Crockett’s reply to a dinner invitation. The reply was written while he was still living in Tennessee, before he moved to Texas and about six months before Crockett’s death in the Alamo, according to RR Auction.

Crockett had recently lost his seat in Congress and displayed his distaste for politics in the letter. He states his desire not to attend a political dinner and only accepts due to the social nature of the event.

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City Council Elections
10:21 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Early Voting Totals, Day Eight: Moving on Up

Turnout for Austin's 2012 election is hewing closer to the non-mayoral election in 2011 than the city's 2009 mayoral election.
Chart by Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Turnout traditionally increases towards the end of early voting, and the 2012 Austin City Council elections are no exception. 

3,448 ballots were cast yesterday, the second-to-last day of early voting. That brings total overall votes to 17,162, or 3.60% of Austin's registered voters. Continuing its lead status among Austin's polling places, Randalls’ Research Boulevard and Braker Lane location saw 441 ballots cast on Monday.

As you can see in the graph above, the late surge mirrors early voting patterns in Austin's 2009 mayoral election, and 2011's City Council election. But despite Monday's increased turnout, which bested this voting cycle's strongest single day of turnout by 1,000 votes, voting still lags behind Austin's last mayoral election. 

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Weather
4:44 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

Flash Flood, Severe Thunderstorm Watch for Central Texas

A flash flood watch is in effect tonight through tomorrow afternoon for much of Central Texas. Heavy rain is expected –  with totals as high as five inches in some areas.

The National Weather Service writes:

Scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms will continue through the overnight hours. Some of these storms could become severe, with large hail and damaging winds. Expect lows to be in the mid-60s to low 70s. Winds will start out at southeast, 10 to 15 mph, but will become east to northeast, at about 5 to 10 mph.

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