AUSTIN -- The contentious Republican runoff between state Sen. Dan Patrick and incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst exploded into outrage Friday with the surfacing of decades-old court documents stemming from a fight with a Houston columnist. The story was broken Thursday night by online Texas politics newsletter The Quorum Report, and quickly picked up by other media.
Depositions from a 1987 lawsuit obtained by numerous media sources show Patrick admitted then to suffering from bouts of depression and exhaustion, for which he was prescribed medication and spent time in two separate Houston-area psychiatric hospitals. The information became public record as part of a lawsuit stemming from an altercation between Patrick and Paul Harasim, a Houston columnist whose writing was critical of his struggling sports bars. Patrick's business ventures ultimately ended in his filing for personal bankruptcy.
The state senator leads a fierce runoff to unseat incumbent Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, yet he's drawn increasing fire from defeated GOP primary opponent and Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Reached by phone on Friday, Patterson told KVUE he forwarded the documents to the media after obtaining them from the columnist's attorney.
The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and is arguably the most powerful person in the State of Texas, Patterson told KVUE. I think voters need to know all there is to know. I think they need to know more, not less information.
Patrick's campaign says the information is nothing new. In an e-mail to media Friday, campaign spokesperson Allen Blakemore said Patrick hasn't used medication or sought treatment in 30 years. Blakemore issued a blistering statement, saying, This is outrageous! Dewhurst had already hit bottom, and now he has found a new low! He has no honor, and knows no shame!
This has not been a secret; for years on his radio station, he has regularly talked about depression and discussed the importance of early treatment when dealing with depression. He has done this to help others and remove any social stigma for those who seek or are considering seeking treatment, Blakemore said. He has conducted several interviews with Texas journalists on the subject. None felt inclined to write the story.
Patrick's campaign also included a 2011 letter from Stephen Kramer, a doctor who treated Patrick for depression during the 1980s. According to Kramer, The symptoms of depression decreased within a short period of time and he was discharged. There was no evidence of cognitive impairment. Since he has been asymptomatic for all these years, a reoccurrence is unlikely.
Late Thursday, state Sens. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) and Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) released a joint statement condemning the deplorable attack on Dan Patrick.
A personal attack of this kind sinks to an unprecedented low, shamelessly attempting to embarrass Dan Patrick for seeking the appropriate medical care to treat a minor bout with depression that occurred almost 30 years ago, read the statement. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 10 American adults suffer from some form of depression in their lifetime...something which the perpetrators of this attack apparently believe should disqualify them from serving their communities or contributing to society.
Dewhurst's campaign responded early Friday evening with a statement from the lieutenant governor in response to the release of information relating to Patrick's personal medical challenges.
Commissioner Jerry Patterson operates completely independently of my Campaign, and over my objections he chose to release information from Mr. Paul Harasim's files, which are all part of the public domain. My heart goes out to Dan Patrick and his family for what they've endured while coping with this situation. The bottom line is I have not read or reviewed any of Mr. Harasim s files from his lawsuit with Dan Patrick. Neither the Campaign or I have any control whatsoever over Mr. Harasim's files.
On Friday, Patterson stood by his decision to release the records to the media.
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? said Patterson. 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.