Dewhurst and Patrick Take the Gloves Off in the Hill Country

Note: This story originally appeared in The Quorum Report. Join us there daily for coverage of Texas politics and government. 


The Inn of the Hills in Kerrville, Texas. The site of Friday’s debate.

KERRVILLE – In this Hill Country county won by Sen. Dan Patrick on Election Day, both he and Lt. Gov David Dewhurst came out swinging in a blistering half-hour debate on Friday. The forum for runoff candidates, hosted by the Republican Women of Kerr County, focused on protecting rural Texas from urban Texas almost as much as protecting the entire state from the effects of illegal immigration.

The questions were all submitted by members of the audience who wanted to know, for example, what each of the combatants would do to make sure rural areas will get their fair share of funding for water projects following the passage of Prop 6. They also wanted to know whether both men would support desalination of water from the Gulf of Mexico.

While Dewhurst demonstrated a depth of knowledge on water – often apologizing for throwing lots of numbers at the crowd – Patrick focused on the conservative message that the private sector should take the lead as much as possible. “Nothing matters if you don’t have water,” Patrick said, noting that economic growth is dependent on investment in infrastructure. “Not only will our rivers dry up but so will our jobs.” Patrick also said anyone running for office who tries to pass themselves off as an expert on every issue is trying to fool voters.

Both the incumbent and the man who’s claimed the Tea Party mantle so far in the election received about the same amount of applause and enthusiasm from the crowd. But, despite Patrick’s positioning as a “Christian first,” it was Dewhurst who got an “amen” or two when he talked about sending President Obama an invoice for Texas border security. On driver licenses for the undocumented, Dewhurst said he understands the arguments in favor of the proposal but “the answer is no.” Patrick agreed.

dewhurstand patrickinkerrville

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

When the moderator – who, by the way, said she believed Common Core is a veiled “socialist” program – asked about in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, both candidates worked as hard as they could to get to the right of each other. Patrick said that he and Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, have tried to eliminate the tuition break while Dewhurst said it was just not true that his opponent is the only candidate in the race against it.

Dewhurst repeatedly said that what Texans want is a Lt Governor “they can trust,” which at first seemed like a subtle swipe at Patrick. It lost all subtlety, though, when he said “Senator you are either incapable of reading a budget or you’re not telling the truth again.” Patrick shot back that Dewhurst must trust him because he appointed the Senator from Houston to multiple committees, including Finance and made him Chairman of Education. “He obviously had a lot of confidence in me,” Patrick said.

The pair said they would do everything they possibly could to ensure Sharia law never takes hold in Texas. Dewhurst went so far as to say that he would replace a committee chair mid-session if a bill on the issue isn’t making its way through the process.

The two candidates concluded with a back and forth about who did the most to stop the curriculum program known at CSCOPE, which some conservatives have blasted as “anti-American.”

Attendees were split on who carried the day.

One woman said that until now, she thought “Dewhurst was toast,” but “now he’s back. I think he might pull this off.” A man who said he supports Patrick said the senator “showed chutzpah, even if he doesn’t know everything.”

It was without question the first time Dewhurst has matched, or at least come close to matching, Patrick’s aggressive tone in a debate. If the reaction of the crowd here is any indication, it may play well with those voters likely to show up on May 27.

Copyright March 21, 2014, Harvey Kronberg,, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission. 

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