Vol 32, Issue 32 Print Issue

Focus on Conservatism, Character at GOP Lt. Gov. Debate

State Sen. Dan Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are in a runoff in the GOP lieutenant governor's race.
State Sen. Dan Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are in a runoff in the GOP lieutenant governor's race.

KERRVILLE — Lieutenant governor candidates David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick on Friday exchanged blows over character and questioned each other's dedication to conservative legislative priorities during their first face-to-face debate ahead of the May Republican primary runoff.

At the forum held in Kerrville by the group Republican Women of Kerr County, Patrick, a Houston state senator, attacked incumbent Dewhurst's record on immigration and anti-abortion legislation. Dewhurst, who finished behind Patrick on primary day with 28 percent of the vote, stopped just short of calling Patrick a liar as he raised questions about the senator's character.

Patrick said that if he led the Senate, he would hold himself responsible for what lawmakers did or did not get done.

"This is where the lieutenant governor steps up," Patrick said. "You don't blame things that don't happen on senators and take credit for things that did happen that senators pass. As your lieutenant governor, if it doesn't happen, it's my fault."

If he was in charge, Patrick said, "six out of 12 Democrats" would not lead the upper chamber's committees. 

"Half of them are not going to get chairmanships of committees," he said. "We've worked too hard to elect conservative Republicans."

Repeating a promise he made during the primary, Dewhurst said he would do away with a rule that required two-thirds of the Senate's approval before bringing a bill to the floor. He said he would replace it with one that required 60 percent approval. 

Dewhurst also seized on an attack against Patrick that was largely taken up by other candidates during the four-way primary. He said the senator was "not telling the truth" on various issues, including claims that Dewhurst as lieutenant governor cut spending for border security.

"I think character is important. It is the most important thing," Dewhurst said. "Senator, you are either incapable of reading the budget or you are not telling the truth again."