Republican lieutenant governor runoff sizzles down stretch

AUSTIN -- Both in person and over the airwaves, three-term Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is making his final pitch to Texans to give him one more.

I'm running for reelection because I think I'm the best candidate to keep this state moving forward, Dewhurst told reporters after casting his early vote Monday in Austin.

In his way is state Sen. Dan Patrick, who emerged from a crowded primary as the Republican frontrunner on March 4. Asked that night whether he was surprised that he polled more GOP primary votes than Dewhurst in an election expected to favor the incumbent, Patrick responded, I'm never surprised by the power of God and the will of the people.

It's been almost twelve weeks since the field of battle was narrowed from four down to two. On Tuesday, Texas voters will choose just one to face Democratic nominee and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in November.

This run-off has gone about the way we thought. It's been horrendous in any number of ways, said Texas Politics Project director and University of Texas Prof. James R. Henson. The candidates have been deeply personal. The talk of policy has been at best intermittent.

After weeks of sniping and fierce attack ads, controversy exploded last week over the publication of 30-year old medical records detailing Patrick's battle with depression. On Tuesday, Patrick told KVUE that rather than hurting, It's helped our campaign. I'm a real person, and real people deal with issues in life.

The final confrontation between Patrick and Dewhurst Tuesday night turned out relatively tame, with both candidates seeking to discern specific policy differences despite their general agreement on overall issues. Yet just as tensions seemed to be deescalating in the final days before the May 27 runoff election, a new conflict surfaced late Thursday.

Patrick's campaign is accusing Dewhurst's of being behind robocalls which include references to the controversial medical records. Patrick's campaign offered a $1,000 bounty to supporters for audio of the call Thursday night, and by Friday claimed to have obtained it. Rather than releasing the audio or text, Patrick campaign strategist Allen Blakemore issued a statement saying, It s too disgusting to repeat.

David Dewhurst has crossed every boundary of decency in this campaign. His appalling behavior is beyond belief, said Blakemore, who called on Dewhurst to stop the calls and apologize. Blakemore described the calls as a push poll -- a type of political advertising designed to mimic a scientific survey.

The automated push poll listed a series of salacious statements followed by 'does knowing these facts make you less likely to vote for Dan Patrick?' Blakemore elaborated in the statement sent to media. The call included a fake disclaimer, citing the name of an organization that is not registered with the Texas Ethics Commission, and a mismatched caller-ID and disclaimer phone number.

The Dewhurst campaign told KVUE Friday they were not familiar with the origin of the calls. Dewhurst said in a statement Friday, Memorial Day weekend is time for Americans to reflect on those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom throughout our nation's history. That freedom is the fundamental source of America's greatness, which is stronger in Texas than anywhere else. Between now and when the polls close on Tuesday evening, I hope Texans will take a moment to reflect on their options in Tuesday's vote.

When faced with the choice between a military veteran who has been an effective, conservative leader, cutting taxes 54 times, passing strong pro-life legislation and appropriating some $800 million to secure the border region or a candidate who has not, I am confident they will choose the former. Until the polls close, I'll continue telling the story of my track record of conservative success using every avenue available to me, said Dewhurst. No amount of maniacal press releases, bounty hunts or aggrieved outbursts by my opponent will shake my confidence in Tuesday's outcome.

In a low-turnout election, Henson says changing perceptions among the party's most conservative voters is a tall order.

They're seeing these negative messages about Patrick, but they're associating them with either the Dewhurst campaign, who they think is an establishment, old-style politics campaign that they're trying to get rid of, or they're associating it with the news media, whose value they also discount, said Henson. Who they just see as somebody who will look at a salacious story like this and milk it for all it's worth.

Republican primary voters will determine Tuesday who's worth representing the party in the general election. The date of the runoff election is May 27.


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