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A Private Battle Turns Public in Texas Senate

The quiet race for lieutenant governor isn't quiet any more, as two senators opened a fiery and very public email fight over gossip that could sink both of their chances to succeed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas (l) and Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston (r)

The quiet race to be the next lieutenant governor of Texas spilled into a nasty email exchange between two senators with aspirations for that post.

In an email apparently sent to all of his Senate colleagues — and obtained and published by a political news website, the Quorum Report — Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, accused Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, of spreading rumors that Patrick and his wife were splitting after decades of marriage.

"I was in Dallas last week and learned that Senator Carona has told people outside the Senate that Jan and I are separated and may get divorced," Patrick wrote. "He added in a few other negative comments about me in an obvious attempt by him to discredit me for some reason. He can say anything he wants to about me, but saying that Jan and I are separated and may get a divorce is not fair to her or my family."

When that went public, Carona responded with an angry denial that he had been spreading rumors — a denial that floated gossip about Patrick's sexual orientation and Carona's opinion of his colleague.

"Call me cynical, but I believe your motivation for pulling this stunt centers around your paranoia over the 2014 Lt. Governor's Race (for which you appear to have declared candidacy) and your concern that no other Senate Republican emerge as a threat to your ambitions," Carona wrote. "As you know, if you truly believed I had said something unflattering, you could have simply asked.  I've never been shy about sharing my dislike and distrust of you.  Put bluntly, I believe you are a snake oil salesman; a narcissist that would say anything to draw attention to himself."

Neither senator was immediately available for comment this morning.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is running for U.S. Senate, and if he wins in November, senators will elect one of their own to serve out the remaining two years of his term. In 2014, the position would be on the ballot as an open seat.

Carona, among others, has been campaigning for the interim job. Patrick has said he's not interested in that race, but might be a candidate in the 2014 election — a contest that's also expected to include three current statewide officials: Comptroller Susan Combs, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

The email exchange prompted Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, to write to Patrick, asking him who accused Carona of spreading rumors in the first place, and why he didn't just call Carona instead of writing an email to the entire Senate. 

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