AUSTIN (AP) – After 11 years in one of the most powerful offices in Texas state government, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst faces the election of his career as he runs against three Republican challengers who claim he is not conservative enough.
Dewhurst’s opponents in the GOP primary on Tuesday are Houston Sen. Dan Patrick, who says he’s a Christian first and a conservative second; state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who says Republicans need to be more than the party of “no”; and state Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who has made border security his hallmark issue.
Dewhurst has said this campaign likely will be his last. The multimillionaire businessman has spent more than $25 million of his fortune on his campaigns over the years and said he’ll eventually need to return to business to make some of that money back.
Similar to the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign that Dewhurst lost to upstart Ted Cruz, the primary has been another round of attacks on Dewhurst’s conservative credentials, despite a record that includes massive budget cuts, tighter restrictions on abortion, photo identification requirements for voters and restriction efforts that bolstered Republican majorities in the Legislature.
Dewhurst’s challengers have criticized him for appointing some Democrats to leadership positions in the 31-member state Senate, and for not cutting off a lengthy abortion bill filibuster last year by Sen. Wendy Davis. The filibuster helped turn her into a national star for Texas Democrats, and she is now the likely Democratic nominee for governor.
But the searing nature of the campaign has seen all of the candidates, each of whom has risen through Texas politics in an era of Republican domination, turn on each other.
Patrick, a. conservative radio talk show host in Houston, has waged the loudest campaign with bombastic rhetoric about ending the “invasion” of illegal immigrants from Mexico. But Patrick has been dogged late in the campaign by allegations — raised by Patterson’ campaign — that he knowingly employed illegal immigrants at Houston-area sports bars he owned in the 1980s, which he denies.
Patterson and Staples have struggled to push their campaigns in front of Dewhurst and Patrick. Patterson has run on a platform heavy on his record of expanding gun rights. As a state lawmaker in the 1990s, he authored the state’s concealed handgun license law.
As agriculture commissioner, Staples has used to the office to focus on border security, notably the threat of confrontations between border farmers and drug traffickers. As a state senator in 2005, he authored the state’s ban on gay marriage, which a federal judge ruled last week is unconstitutional.
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