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AUSTIN -- Texas voters slowly trickled into early voting locations Monday morning to cast their ballots in the run-off elections.

The most heated election by far continues to be the fierce feud between incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and his challenger, state Sen. Dan Patrick. The contest exploded into fresh controversy at the end of last week with the release by a former rival of documents detailing Patrick's medical history during the 1980s.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has taken aim at Patrick since being defeated in the GOP primary. Over Thursday and Friday, Patterson released a series of documents from a lawsuit filed by Patrick during the late 1980s. Around the same time Patrick's ventures in the bar and restaurant business were failing, the documents show Patrick apparently attempted suicide and received treatment and medication for severe depression.

The question becomes: If in fact this was a condition that existed then, how do we know that it does not exist now? How do we know that medications are not necessary for the person to remain functional? Patterson told KVUE Friday. There are a lot of questions here, and it's unfortunate, but when you are a public person, all bets are off and everything's game.

Patrick issued a sharply-worded press release Friday evening, stating, David Dewhurst and his attack dog Jerry Patterson have sunk deeper into the mire, lowering them further into the gutter. While it is hard to imagine, they have achieved a new low.

As I have said, I voluntarily entered the hospital twice in the 1980 s for exhaustion and to seek treatment for depression. Some of prescribed medications exacerbated my condition and created more serious problems. Through prayer and with the help of my family and physician, like millions of other American, I was able to defeat depression. I have not seen a doctor or taken any medication to treat depression in nearly 30 years. Two weeks ago I released a medical report indicating I am in excellent physical and mental health; I am ready to serve.

Dewhurst believes my medical issues with depression, nearly 30 years ago, are a problem. He s mistaken. The problem is when a politician who is sliding in the polls, thinks he can use his opponent s health records to get ahead. It simply won t work.

After early voting Monday in Austin, Dewhurst met with media and reiterated his insistence his campaign had nothing to do with Patterson's decision to release the information. Dewhurst told reporters he was notified by Patterson roughly a week and a half ago of the existence of information relating to a lawsuit, but warned Patterson, I don't want any part of it.

After Patterson released the documents to media, Dewhurst said he received another call from the land commissioner Friday morning.

I said, 'Stop. Stop,' Dewhurst told reporters Monday. 'First of all, don't be sending anything out unless you're sure in your heart its relevant today just like it was then. And secondly, if you really feel that Dan Patrick is unfit to be the lieutenant governor of the State of Texas, don't be doing anything that might confuse people and somehow indirectly hurt me. So don't be doing that.'

Yet Dewhurst also suggested the information, which became part of the public record as a result of Patrick's lawsuit against a Houston columnist, was fair game. Asked by KVUE whether the information was relevant to the race, Dewhurst offered a vague response.

That's a good question. I made it a point to reach out and share my prayers with the Patrick family. I don't think that what happened 20 years ago is relevant today unless it speaks to your continuing character or your capacity to governor or lead, said Dewhurst, who told media he had yet to review the material himself. I can't make a judgment today. I may be able to at some point in the next day or two.

Asked whether the information should be something voters consider when making a choice, Dewhurst responded, I'm going to have to leave this up to the voters. At the end of the day if this speaks to the character and the capacity to govern and lead, then I think it should be on the voters' minds. And if it doesn't, it shouldn't.

Emphasizing his record as lieutenant governor, Dewhurst cited numerous examples of legislation he's initiated and helped guide through the Texas Senate. The race, he said, comes down to qualifications.

I wish him all the best in life. I think I'm a better candidate for lieutenant governor. I know I've got the temperament. I know I've got the integrity and the confidence by the senators, said Dewhurst. This is not a question of who's more conservative. We're both very conservative.

An e-mail from Patrick's campaign Monday announced the state senator had raised more than $4 million between February 23 and May 17, the period covered in the campaign finance report due Monday. According to the e-mail, Patrick's campaign spent more than $3, 75 million on statewide media and enters the final eight days before the May 27 runoff with more than $400,000 cash on hand.

Grassroots support, which has always been the key to my electoral success, came through again, Patrick said in a statement. I m pleased to announce that we had over 1,000 on-line donations of less than one hundred dollars.

Our numbers will be a little better than that, but we'll see, Dewhurst said Monday in response to Patrick's numbers.

Early voting in the 2014 runoff elections ends Friday. The election is May 27.

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