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Runoff Races Start to Heat Up

Also, a slew of runoff endorsements are announced and Empower Texans asks a district judge for help against ethics commission-issued subpoenas.

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We are now less than four weeks out from primary runoff day and things are heating up out there.

Not surprisingly, the biggest blows are being traded in the GOP race for lieutenant governor. The Dan Patrick campaign kicked off the week with an ad that said the incumbent David Dewhurst’s “lies won’t hide a failed record on illegal immigration.”

That drew a response from the Dewhurst campaign that said voters “can’t trust” Patrick because of a bankruptcy declaration in the 1980s and an unrelated name change. And in a bizarre touch, the Dewhurst ad featured a picture of Patrick wearing a suit coat and tie but no shirt underneath.

Even the release of three years’ worth of tax returns by Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte over the weekend — which included the revelation that her husband, Pete, is not a particularly accomplished gambler — became fodder in the Dewhurst-Patrick war. The Dewhurst campaign seized on Van de Putte’s action to demand that Patrick do the same.

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Democrats, meanwhile, would seem to prefer a face-off between Van de Putte and Patrick in the fall.

The Texas Democratic Party launched a social media campaign on Tuesday that featured a website, MountainDewhurst.com, that targets the incumbent as “anti-immigrant” and “anti-women.”

Democrats would doubtless use those labels for both Dewhurst and Patrick, but as the Tribune’s Morgan Smith noted, “Some political observers have suggested that Patrick, a more polarizing figure, might inspire better turnout among left-leaning voters in November — which could explain the party's attack against Dewhurst in the runoff.”

Dewhurst responded to news of the website positively, choosing to portray it as a “badge of honor” that proved his “strong conservative record.” Patrick has also tried to portray himself as a bane of Democrats, saying in his April 15 debate with Julián Castro that “I am the one candidate all Democrats fear.” That spurred Castro’s rejoinder, “Actually, you’re our meal ticket back in.”

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Groups are no doubt cognizant of the fast approaching runoff elections with this week’s sizable group of endorsements proof of that.

•    The tort reform group Texans for Lawsuit Reform announced endorsements of SD-10 candidate Konni Burton and HD-66 candidate Matt Shaheen.

•    Former state Rep. Norma Chávez, who is trying to win election to represent El Paso in the House again, received the endorsement of the Texas Association of Business.

•    GOP attorney general candidate Ken Paxton has won the endorsement of the Texas Fraternal Order of Police. The announcement came a few days after the Texas Municipal Police Association, a supporter of Paxton’s runoff rival, Dan Branch, called on Paxton to answer questions about his failure to register as an investment adviser representative.

•    Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced endorsements from a couple of Tea Party groups — the Battleground Tea Party of Texas and the Pearland Tea Party.

•    Republican railroad commissioner candidate Ryan Sitton announced the endorsement of the Tarrant County 912 Action PAC.

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On the heels of a U.S. district judge’s decision to dismiss its federal case against the Texas Ethics Commission, the conservative activist group Empower Texans asked a state district judge to say whether the court can review subpoenas issued against it.

The subpoenas were issued as part of an investigation into complaints filed by a current and former lawmaker as well as a Capitol lobbyist against Empower Texans and its president, Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Empower Texans has said repeatedly that the subpoenas would expose the group’s donors to harassment and is refusing to comply. The ethics commission has said the subpoenas are necessary to get information from the group, which has thus far refused to cooperate with the investigation.

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Bo Delp, the deputy communications director for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, resigned on Tuesday. He was the campaign’s chief communications director until about two months ago, when the campaign hired Zac Petkanas, a former communications director for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to lead the communications shop.

Delp told the Tribune on Thursday, “I did the best I could with the resources I had available to me.” Delp added that he is considering “a number of options” in Texas Democratic politics

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Tuesday is the last day of early voting in the SD-4 special election.

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