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Lobbyist: Efforts Afoot to Get Candidates to Drop Out

UPDATED: An email from a lobbyist at one of the state's largest law firms suggests there may be efforts underway to persuade three second-place Republican primary finishers to withdraw from the May runoffs.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst spoke to supporters in Houston after it became clear he would head into a runoff election against state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.

Updated, 5:10 p.m.: 

Harvey Hilderbran, who won second place in the Republican primary for comptroller, announced late Friday afternoon that he will withdraw from the runoff in the race.

Original story:

An email from a lobbyist at one of the state's largest law firms suggests there may be efforts underway to persuade three second-place Republican primary finishers, including incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, to withdraw from the May runoffs. 

In a message sent to clients on Friday, Robert Miller, the chairman of Locke Lord's public law division, wrote that only the "hardcore of the hardcore will vote" in the May Republican primary runoffs and that he believed the races for comptroller, attorney general and lieutenant governor "are over before they start."

"Efforts are underway and will intensify to have Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Rep. [Dan] Branch, and Rep. [Harvey] Hilderbran drop out of the races," wrote Miller. "I don’t know whether these efforts will succeed, but I am certain that money will rapidly begin moving to [Dan] Patrick, [Ken] Paxton and [Glenn] Hegar. I am in the process of organizing major Houston fundraisers for each of them."

Dewhurst cleared just 28 percent of the vote in the March primary. Challenger Dan Patrick, a state senator from Houston, finished ahead by a 14-point margin. Attorney general hopeful Ken Paxton finished over Dan Branch by an 11-point margin for the open seat. In the race for comptroller, Glenn Hegar was fewer than 100 votes from avoiding a runoff in unofficial tallies, with Harvey Hilderbran trailing at a distant second with just under 27 percent of the vote.

"I assessed the situation and that’s my assessment of where we are," Miller said in a phone interview. "You are seeing the big-money Republicans move."

According to filings with the Texas Ethics Commission, Miller's law firm has contributed $6,000 to Dewhurst and $10,000 to Patrick since June 2013. In that period, the firm also gave $15,000 to Hegar and $25,000 to Barry Smitherman, a third candidate for attorney general who finished last in the primary.

The Dewhurst, Branch and Hilderbran campaigns told The Texas Tribune on Friday that they intended to continue to the May runoffs.

Dewhurst spokesman Travis Considine said the incumbent had not been asked to drop out.

"He’s been receiving calls from the grassroots leaders that supported him in the primary," said Considine.

Enrique Marquez, a spokesman for the Branch campaign, questioned Miller's judgment, noting that Miller had predicted in November that Branch would not be in a runoff at all. 

Marquez said he expects "Mr. Miller to be wrong once again."

Reeve Hamilton contributed to this report.  

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Politics 2014 elections David Dewhurst