Both of the state’s top legislative leaders are getting ready for the next legislative session, but only one of them will be here for it. Republican voters chose state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston over incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Tuesday’s runoff.
Dewhurst said he will remain involved in public policy and business after his term is up in January, but has not decided on the particulars of that.
House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio, meanwhile, is all but assured of re-election to the House — he has a Libertarian opponent in November, but no Democrat — and appears well-positioned for a fourth term as speaker after an election within the House in January.
Dewhurst said Wednesday he will rest for a couple of weeks, including a trip to the D-Day Memorial in Normandy, France, and will return to continue working on the state Senate’s preparations for the regular legislative session in January.
He has not detailed his plans for life after public office — he was elected land commissioner in 1998 and won the first of his three terms as lieutenant governor four years later — but said he will remain active in both business and public affairs.
“I’ve got a family to love, a business to run and a passion for liberty that’s stronger than ever,” he said. “I fully intend to stay engaged in furthering the cause of conservatism in Texas and beyond.”
He said he has a lot to do in the next seven months to get the Senate prepared for his successor — he assumes that will be Patrick and not his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. After that, he said, he is not sure what is next.
“I like to get things done,” Dewhurst said. “I’m not someone who sits around and studies policy, but I like to get things done."
“It’s really too early to make a decision,” he added, later saying that he remains interested in education, energy and immigration policy. “That’s my interest in public policy and that’s my interest in business.”
Straus said Wednesday he was happy with the runoff election results in the House and hopes next year’s legislative session in that body will proceed more or less like the 2013 session.
In a runoff that drew just 5 percent of the state’s 18.9 million adults to the polls, Republicans backed by Straus and his allies won all but a couple of races. Conservative candidates trying to unseat incumbent and establishment Republicans did better in the statewide races at the top of the ballot — Patrick’s win over Dewhurst is one example — than in the House races at the bottom.
Without going into specifics, Straus said he was put off by the tone of some of the runoffs. “The primary’s over and it didn’t bring out the best of some of the candidates,” he said.
And he said the elections have not provided much direction for policymakers on specific issues. “Based on the primaries, I don’t think there was much discussion of what we need to do,” Straus said.
Straus noted the turnover in the state Senate and the conservatism of many of its new members. He stopped short of guessing what might come out of that chamber next year. “I really try not to worry about them. I don’t understand their culture very well,” he said. “Over here, we’ll continue to do what we’ve done.”
Patrick has a reputation as a firebrand conservative, particularly after a rough primary, but Straus said they “have a common interest in success” if Patrick wins in November, adding that the two have worked together in the past.
“The last session ... I’ll say this, as a negotiating partner on education, I found him reasonable,” Straus said.