Patrick Wins Big in Bid for Lieutenant Governor

State Sen. Dan Patrick celebrates his election as the next lieutenant governor of Texas in Houston on November 4th, 2014.
State Sen. Dan Patrick celebrates his election as the next lieutenant governor of Texas in Houston on November 4th, 2014.

HOUSTON — Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick cruised to a landslide victory Tuesday night in the race for lieutenant governor, defeating Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.

With 64 percent of precincts counted, Patrick, who campaigned with Tea Party backing, was ahead with almost 59 percent of the vote.

In a short victory speech before more than 300 supporters, including several Republican state senators and representatives, Patrick said he would push a hard-line Republican agenda while presiding over the Texas Senate.

“I am blessed to come into a Senate that has very bright and capable people, and I will be a lieutenant governor that will empower them to lead,” Patrick said after listing off his legislative priorities, including lowering property taxes and securing the border.

Patrick also struck a more emotional tone in his remarks, saying he was humbled by his win. “I’m a better man for these 15 months,” Patrick said. 

 

Dabbing an occasional tear, Van de Putte addressed more than 200 supporters inside downtown San Antonio's Sunset Station to concede defeat. "Texas' better days are in the future, and that's because of people like you," Van de Putte told the crowd. 

"This race was an uphill battle," she said. "I'm so proud of the millions that were raised, of the issues that were brought up."

Van de Putte said her phone call offering congratulations to Patrick was pleasant.

"Senator Patrick was very gracious tonight," Van de Putte said. "I congratulated him on a very, very disciplined campaign. He said,  'We've been friends for six years, we are going to continue.' He looks forward to us working together."

Tuesday's election marked the end of a long campaign for the Houston radio talk show host. After surviving a heated four-way Republican primary, Patrick easily won a runoff by casting incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as not conservative enough for Texas.

Throughout the general election campaign, Patrick kept a low profile, holding multiple events that were not publicly announced. Patrick raised almost twice as much cash as his opponent, raking in about $14 million including his expensive primary. Van de Putte raised nearly $7.5 million and ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Van de Putte spent the last few weeks crisscrossing the state at dozens of public events, including a two-week bus tour with stops in Republican strongholds. The San Antonio state senator jumped into the race a year ago, spurred in part by Republican rhetoric on controlling illegal immigration.

Patrick came under fire from Republicans and Democrats for using the term “illegal invasion” to describe the influx of undocumented immigrants into the state. Patrick has since toned down that rhetoric, but remains focused on immigration, continuing to push for a repeal of the Texas DREAM Act, which allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

 

A few hours before polls closed, Patrick told The Texas Tribune he expected to win 30 percent of the overall Hispanic vote, saying Van de Putte’s appeal to those voters was greater because of her Hispanic heritage. 

Van de Putte was outpacing Patrick in the Rio Grande Valley by a wide margin. With precincts still out, Patrick trailed with 30 percent of the vote in Hidalgo County to Van de Putte's 70 percent. In Cameron County, Van de Putte led with 61 percent to Patrick's 36 percent.

Patrick will preside over a more conservative 31-member Texas Senate when the Legislature convenes in January. During the primary election, several Republican senators lost to more conservative challengers. Other Republicans who resigned to pursue other endeavors — political and professional — have been replaced by lawmakers who ran to the right.

Patrick has said he plans to give Democrats fewer committee chairmanships and will push to repeal the Senate’s so-called two-thirds rule, which requires more than a majority of its members to approve a bill’s consideration on the Senate floor. Van de Putte will return to the Senate in January with two more years still left in her current term.

Patrick also campaigned on lowering property taxes by modifying the state’s tax formula, but has left unclear how exactly he would do that. Patrick has long advocated reducing the state’s dependence on property taxes to fund public schools, calling instead for an increased reliance on the state’s sales tax.

Texas Tribune reporter Terri Langford also contributed to this story.

Videos courtesy of KXAS-TV

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