Whether incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst can make up for a big primary night loss to challenger Dan Patrick in a May runoff may depend on if he can successfully court the supporters of his two former opponents.
But in interviews on Tuesday, neither Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples nor Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who earned a combined 30 percent of the vote in the March GOP primary for lieutenant governor, were ready to come out in favor of Dewhurst.
Staples said outright that he had decided not to give a nod in the race.
Patterson said he was still making up his mind about whether to endorse Dewhurst, but forcefully attacked Patrick, saying the Houston state senator would take the state backward as lieutenant governor.
"He will wholly be bad for Texas, bad for the Republican Party," Patterson said of Patrick. "We have two choices, and I will categorically tell you I'm not voting for Dan Patrick either in the primary or the general election. I'll vote Libertarian in November if I have to."
In a media phone call last last week, Patrick campaign consultant Allen Blakemore said the campaign would not be fazed by attacks from former candidates in the race. “It’s not something we are particularly worried about," Blakemore said. "Mr. Patterson calling us a liar is probably the nicest thing he’s said about us in months."
Patterson also said Tuesday that he did not believe that Dewhurst — who faces speculation he may withdraw from the race after trailing Patrick by 14 points and clearing just 28 percent of the vote on primary night — would drop out.
"When you're in it, you're in it to the end. And I can almost guarantee it David Dewhurst is not going to drop out," he said.
But Staples, who avoided criticism of either candidate, said he saw a "difficult road ahead" for Dewhurst.
"I think he'd really have to do a strong assessment, really identify the things that he thinks he can make a connection with or make the determination not to move forward," he said. "And I don't think anyone would hold that against him at this point in time if that's the decision he made."
On Tuesday, Dewhurst spokesman Travis Considine said the incumbent would stay in the race.
"Yesterday, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst told supporters at the Northwest Forest Republican Women's Candidate forum that he was excited about the race going into overtime and that he is fully committed to doing what's necessary to achieve victory on May 27," Considine wrote in an email.
The deadline to take a candidate off of the May runoff ballot is Wednesday.