Editor's note: This story was updated to include the Patrick campaign's remarks.
A key business group, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, has jettisoned its support for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and endorsed his challenger, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in the May runoff for Dewhurst's post. It's the most consequential defection since Patrick's surprisingly strong first-place finish in the March 5 primary.
The group had endorsed Dewhurst for re-election, but after supporting him in all of his races for statewide office since 1998, it has decided to leave him behind. Patrick finished well ahead of the incumbent in the four-candidate primary, winning 41.5 percent to Dewhurst's 28.3 percent.
Patrick said TLR should get some of the credit for the state's economy. “Texas’ economic success is due to a business environment characterized by low taxes, light regulation and a fair and predictable legal environment," he said. "It wouldn’t have happened without TLR and their support for conservative candidates for public office.”
His political consultant, Allen Blakemore, called TLR's switch "a game-changer in the lieutenant governor’s race" and said it will likely translate into financial support for the challenger. "The question about whether or not the Patrick Campaign will be competitively funded has now been answered,” he said.
TLR's leaders announced their decision in a letter to some of their members:
TLRPAC is grateful to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst for his service to our nation and our state. David is an exceptionally accomplished person and a patriot. He has served our nation in the CIA and our state as Land Commissioner and Lt. Governor. Along the way he had an enormously successful business career. Whatever David endeavors in the future, he will bring to those endeavors an analytical mind, an attention to detail, an enduring patriotism, and a determination to succeed.
In the Republican primary for Lt. Governor, there were four candidates with pro-tort reform records: David Dewhurst, Sen. Dan Patrick, Agriculture Commissioner (and former state senator) Todd Staples and Land Commissioner (and former state senator) Jerry Patterson. Normally, in a situation of that kind, TLRPAC would not endorse among four candidates. We chose, however, to endorse David Dewhurst because as Lt. Governor he played pivotal roles at crucial times over the past decade in the passage of comprehensive tort reforms.
In the runoff for Lt. Governor in the Republican primary, TLRPAC believes that Sen. Patrick has earned the support of Republicans who want to retain the Lt. Governorship in conservative hands. Sen. Patrick’s leadership on a broad platform of conservative issues, including lawsuit reform, has united Republican voters. This was demonstrated forcefully on March 4th when Dan received a commanding 41.45% of the vote in a field of four strong candidates.
In determining the best course for the State of Texas moving forward, we believe it is time to rally to Dan Patrick for the fall election.
The Democrat nominee for Lt. Governor is Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), who has been a consistent and vocal foe to every major tort reform that has been brought before the Texas senate during her tenure. Leticia is a polite and civil opponent, but a fierce and persistent one. We are confident that Sen. Patrick will defeat her and assure that the lawsuit reforms that have strengthened our state’s economy for the past two decades will not be weakened or overthrown.
We have worked closely with Sen. Patrick over the years and he has always been a tort reform stalwart who has consistently refused to accept political contributions from personal injury trial lawyers. During the last legislative session, as Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Dan showed legislative skill and statesmanship in producing large bi-partisan support for an impressive array of important legislation impacting the Texas K-12 education system. We are confident he will employ these same leadership skills on every issue when he is Lt. Governor.
TLRPAC is endorsing Sen. Dan Patrick for Lt. Governor in the Republican Run-Off on May 27. We believe it is time to unite behind Dan and to start work toward victory in November.
Dick Weekley, Texans for Lawsuit Reform Chairman
Dick Trabulsi, Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC Chairman