Tribpedia: David Dewhurst

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is just the third Republican since Reconstruction to hold the seat in Texas. First elected to the post in 2002, he is in now in his third term, having served longer than all but two of his predecessors.

In July 2011, he announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. A year later, he lost a GOP runoff to former Solicitor General Ted Cruz by an unexpectedly wide margin in an expensive and rancorous campaign.

Dewhurst was born Aug. 18, 1945. His father, a highly decorated Army Air Force squad commander in World War II who flew several bombing raids over Europe, was killed by a drunken driver when Dewhurst was 3 years old, forcing his mother to work two jobs as a secretary to support her sons.

After attending the University of Arizona, where he played on the basketball team, Dewhurst joined the Air Force, served in the CIA and worked in the U.S. State Department. Returning to the private sector, Dewhurst and a partner in 1981 purchasedFalcon Seaboard, an independent electric company specializing in cogeneration plants. In the ensuing years, Dewhurst acquired all the stock, and by the 1990s, the company had become a diversified energy company, which was sold toCal Energy in 1996 for$226 million and the assumption of about $600 million in debt. Dewhurst joined the board of directors. His wealth has been estimated at about $200 million.

Before running for office, Dewhurst was a major contributor to Republican candidates and served as finance chairman for the Republican Party of Texas.

Dewhurst began his political career in 1998, winning the race for Texas land commissioner, the first Republican to hold the job in more than a century.  

Following George W. Bush’s election as president — which elevated Lt. Gov. Rick Perry to the governor’s office — Dewhurst defeated former state Comptroller John Sharp in the race to replace Perry, winning with 52 percent of the vote.

During his one term as land commissioner, Dewhurst reduced the agency’s workforce and budget. He also certified low-interest loans for veterans. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Perry appointed him as chairman of the Task Force on Homeland Security.

In his first legislative session, Dewhurst helped steer a major tort-reform package and budget cuts.

In 2006, he led the way in introducing Texas’ version of Jessica’s Law, which imposes harsher penalties on child molesters. Part of the law, which had allowed for the death penalty for crimes other than murder, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dewhurst guided an increasingly right-leaning Legislature to more conservative positions on issues like redistricting, overhauling school finance and more stringent voter ID requirements.

During the 2011 special legislative session, following a regular session marked by historic budget cuts in the face of massive shortfalls, Perry added an “anti-groping” bill to the agenda. The bill, a Tea Party favorite, was filed in reaction to what many perceived as intrusive overreach by the Transportation Security Administration in regard to passenger searches and pat-downs. A letter from the U.S. Department of Justice warned that the bill might violate federal law and lead to a cessation of flights into Texas had effectively killed an earlier version of the bill. The bill never made it to law, and angry members of the House and Senate accused Dewhurst of caving in to the federal government. Dewhurst denied the charge, but found himself under attack from an unexpected direction — his right.

In the 2012 U.S. Senate race, Dewhurst’s 3 main challengers in the Republican primary ––former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, former ESPN college football analyst Craig James and Cruz — continued to hit him from his right. Though politically and personally closely aligned with Perry, Dewhurst didn’t align himself with the Tea Party as the governor had, but his conservative credentials were nonetheless considered sufficient to assure his front-runner status.

Legal challenges to the redistricting map drawn up under his watch in the 2011 legislative session pushed the primary vote from March into May 2012, with runoffs scheduled for July 31. Although Dewhurst was the top vote-getter, ousting Leppert and James, he pulled down 45 percent to Cruz’s 34 percent of the vote, forcing a runoff. Despite Dewhurst’s vast personal fortune, superior name recognition and support from Perry and nearly all the state senators, Cruz managed to turn strong state and national Tea Party support, energized campaigning and a dynamic debating style into a stunning runoff victory, beating Dewhurst by nearly 14 percentage points.

Still the lieutenant governor, Dewhurst remains one of the most powerful people in state government. He continues to have the power to guide legislation and appoint senate committee chairs, but both he and Perry have suffered considerable setbacks recently. And there’s some restlessness in the ranks: Attorney General Greg Abbott has a considerable war chest and is widely thought to have his eye on the governor’s office, and Jerry Patterson, who holds Dewhurst’s old position as land commissioner, let it be known –– on the night of the runoff –– that he’s running for lieutenant governor in 2014.

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Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey on WFAA-TV's "Inside Texas Politics" on May 25, 2014.
State Sen. Dan Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and debated in Salado, Tx on May 20, 2014, ahead of the Republican primary runoff for lieutenant governor.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at his primary watch party in Houston on May 29, 2012. Supporters arriving at Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's primary watch party in Houston on May 29, 2012. David Dewhurst primary watch party in Houston, Tuesday May 29, 2012 Supporters arrive to the primary watch party of Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst - Houston, Tuesday May 29, 2012. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst - 2012 Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, right, at a U.S. Senate candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at a U.S. Senate candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012, in Austin. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at a U.S. Senate candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012, in Austin. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, right, makes a point as challenger Ted Cruz, left, listens during a U.S. Senate candidate debate sponsored by TPPF in Austin on January 12, 2012. Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, right, at a U.S. Senate candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012. Texas political leaders at a press conference outside the Governor's Mansion on May 17, 2006.  Left to right, Sen. Florence Shapiro, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Governor Rick Perry and House Speaker Tom Craddick. Someone dressed in a duck suit stands outside the Austin Club before U.S. Senate candidate David Dewhurst's appearance at a TribLive event on Nov. 17, 2011. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at a TribLive event on Nov. 17, 2011, in Austin. Candidate for U.S. Senate, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, r, gestures toward moderator Evan Smith during a TribLive conversation on November 17, 2011. Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, candidate for U.S. Senate, gestures while speaking at a TribLive event at the Austin Club on November 17, 2011. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaking to Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith at a TribLive event on Nov. 17, 2011. U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst September 7th, 2011: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst during press conference at the Bastrop Convention Center Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaks to reporters on June 3rd, 2011 Gov. Rick Perry speaking to reporters alongside House Speaker Joe Straus, center, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst during a post-session press conference at the Texas Capitol on May 30, 2011. House Speaker Joe Straus, left, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at a post-session press conference on May 31, 2011. Texas' three leaders (l to r), House Speaker Joe Straus, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appear at the Texas Capitol for their traditional post-session press conference on May 31, 2011. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst gestures toward Senate Democrats as they leave the chamber to caucus on Sunday afternoon May 29, 2011. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst speaks to the Capitol press corps about the possibilities of a special legislative session on May 30, 2011. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst speaks to the press regarding a possible special session in mid-afternoon of May 30, 2011. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, shakes hands with Sen. Mike Jackson R-District 11, after being sworn in as Senate President Pro Tempore on May 30th, 2011 Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, swears in Sen. Mike Jackson as President Pro Tempore on May 30th, 2011 Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (c) expresses his disappointment with a Senate filibuster by State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, on SB1811 Sunday night, May 29, 2011. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (r) talks with State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, at his desk in the early evening on May 28, 2011. Gov. Rick Perry (r) looks at the crowd of reporters in the Governor's Reception Room as State Sen. Troy Fraser (l), R-Marble Falls, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst react at the Voter ID bill signing on May 27, 2011. Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at the voter ID bill signing on May 27, 2011. Gov. Rick Perry (l) reacts to a reporter's question on his presidential aspirations as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (c) and House Speaker Joe Straus (r) listen during the Voter ID bill signing ceremony on May 27, 2011. State Sen. Robert Duncan (l), R-Lubbock, speaks with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (c), and State Sen. Steve Ogden (r), R-Bryan, while standing behind a stack of amendments in the Texas Senate on May 25, 2011. Sen. Royce West (c), D-Dallas, makes a point as Sen. Jane Nelson (l), R-Flower Mound, Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (r) listen during Saturday's session on May 21, 2011. State Sen. Steve Ogden (l), R-Bryan, talks with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (r) during debate on SB1581 a fiscal matters bill in the Texas Senate chamber on May 20, 2011. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst reaches to shake the hand of a member following his visit to the House chamber Thursday afternoon to discuss budget matters on May 19, 2011. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst leaving the House chamber following budget negotiations on May 19, 2011. After emerging from a closed-door meeting with House members, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst tells the press, "We're very very close" in budget negotiations on May 19, 2011. State Rep. Ralph Sheffield (r), R-Temple, visits with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the House chamber following Dewhurst's visit with House Speaker Joe Straus on May 19, 2011. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst listens to a reporter's question after his press conference on education and budget issues on May 17, 2011. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst talks about education funding in the final days of the legislative session on May 17, 2011. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaking to the press about budget and education matters on May 17, 2011. Sen. Florence Shapiro (l), R-Plano, discusses a matter with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on May 5, 2011 one day after the Senate passed HB1 the state budget. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst listens to members after the Texas Senate voted, 19-12, to pass the budget on May 4, 2011. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst gavels in the Senate session on April 28, 2011. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (l), talks with Sen. Dan Patrick on the floor of the Texas Senate on April 18, 2011. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (c) goes over legislation with colleagues on the Senate floor April 18, 2011 Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (far left) presents wooden gavels to nine Texas Catholic bishops at the Texas Senate on April 6, 2011 Lt. Governor David Dewhurst speaks on a cellphone at the dais during the Senate session on April 6, 2011. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Sen. Carlos Uresti, Sen. Robert Duncan and Sen. Dan Patrick review amendments to Senate Bill 16, the abortion sonogram bill. Texas Health Care Reform language. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst during press conference introducing Senate Bill 7 and Senate Bill 8, legislation designed to improve health care. February 16th, 2011 Leticia van de Putte questions Dewhurst January 24th, 2011 Lt. Gov David Dewhurst sworn in by Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson on January 18th, 2011 Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst shakes hands with Gov. Rick Perry at the 2011 inauguration. House Speaker Joe Straus, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst after their first weekly breakfast meeting saying they will work together on the state budget. Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst after their first weekly breakfast meeting saying they will work together on the state budget. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst after their first weekly breakfast meeting saying they will work together on the state budget. Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst after their first weekly breakfast meeting saying they will work together on the state budget. Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst after their first weekly breakfast meeting saying they will work together on the state budget. The lieutenant governor greets Gov. Rick Perry as he takes the podium in the Senate. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst opens the session for the Senate Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaks at the Republican watch party at the TDS Exotic Game Ranch on Election Night, Nov 2, 2010.  Dewhurst easily beat Democratic challenger Linda Chavez-Thompson. Tweet from htowngrip, who apparently was on the set for a David Dewhurst commercial shoot. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst give a keynote speech. First general session of the Texas Republican Convention featuring Governor Rick Perry and all the other statewide elected officials. Hamilton Richards asks Dewhurst whether he will attempt to curb raises in governmental agencies' fees in addition to state taxes. State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, speaking with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on the floor of the Texas Senate.

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