AUSTIN -- The four Republican contenders vying for the party's nomination for lieutenant governor agreed on most issues, but differed over specific details in Monday night's live debate hosted by Dallas public television station KERA-TV.
All support some form of guest worker programs, as well as a stronger border, but differ over what to do with those currently undocumented.
"The first question is stop the invasion and then we'll address those questions," said state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston).
"Would you rather have the border patrol chasing wait staff or coyotes and narcotraffickers? We need to separate those two populations," said Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who suggested work must be done to provide non-amnesty legal status for otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
"We can shut down the border once and for all this year, simply by the governor and the speaker joining the legislature and appropriating the funds," said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. The current incumbent advocates securing the border through a "surge" consisting of increased technology and manpower.
"Dewhurst has thrown money at the problem. It has not fixed it," said agriculture commissioner Todd Staples, who suggested enforcement must be done in a way that respects and cooperates with landowners along the border.
Each answered specific questions about their campaign. Dewhurst was questioned by the panel and chastised several times by Patrick over his handling of the filibuster mounted by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) against controversial abortion restrictions during the summer.
"Look at the results," said Dewhurst. "Protecting a woman's health and the life of the unborn: One. Wendy Davis: Zero."
Patrick addressed his bankruptcy declaration several decades ago, and $800,000 in debts he never repaid despite becoming a prosperous entrepreneur afterward.
"The whole purpose is for people to be able to start over anew, and that's what I did," said Patrick. "And I'm very proud of our success."
Defending a vote as a legislator in favor of the original law allowing certain undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at Texas colleges and universities, Staples said his current opposition to the law is because the original criteria was never met.
"It was based on two precepts. One is that those students would correct our status, and secondly, it was based on the assumption that our federal government would secure our border," said Staples. He argued neither were fulfilled.
Patterson authored the original law authorizing the carrying of concealed handguns in Texas. Asked where, if anywhere, gun rights should be limited, he responded there were only two places.
"A bar, and that's about it for me. And private property," said Patterson, who clarified he supports open carry and the right to carry a weapon in any public space.
Candidates lined up in opposition to abortion law exceptions for rape and incest, as well as on the issue of decriminalizing marijuana.
"I would not legalize it. I would not decriminalize it," said Dewhurst. Patterson was the only candidate to voice support for medical marijuana if doctors determine it could be beneficial.
"I see nothing wrong with that," said Patterson. "We're talking about medicine. We're not talking about recreational use."
The candidates will likely offer further policy specifics as the March 4 primary approaches. If no candidate polls 50 percent or higher, the top two vote winners will head to a May 27 runoff election. The winner will likely face Democratic frontrunner state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) in November.