Lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick believes he’s the conservative who can break up the Texas Senate’s clubby, Republican establishment.
On Thursday, KERA aired a conversation with current lieutenant governor David Dewhurst, who hopes to win the GOP nomination and a fourth term. Patrick, a state senator from Houston, canceled his interview with KERA. But, throughout the campaign, he’s had a lot to say.
For the past three decades, Houstonians have known Patrick first as a flamboyant TV sportscaster, then as a radio station owner and conservative talk show host.
It’s training that’s given the 64-year old state senator from Baltimore an upper hand in debates with Dewhurst, who once stuttered and struggles during rapid exchanges.
Patrick has repeatedly flummoxed Dewhurst with his quick, relentless jabs.
Glib and impassioned
During a Dallas debate, Patrick blamed Dewhurst for allowing “anarchy” to reign in the senate during Democrat Wendy Davis’s abortion filibuster. In trying to explain what happened, Dewhurst ended up agreeing with the anarchy statement then said he should have had more state troopers in the chamber to keep order.
“He’s Dewhurst’s second worst nightmare after his first worst nightmare, running against Ted Cruz. Patrick is glib and impassioned and very smart,” said Joe Holley, a columnist and political reporter with the Houston Chronicle.
Holley says Houstonians of a certain age remember Dan Patrick as a shock-jock sports broadcaster and talk-show host who would do anything for ratings.
“Whether it was having attractive young women paint his body Houston Oiler blue. He went through a vasectomy on the air," Holley said. "And Patrick’s colleagues are deeply concerned it’s the shock jock who will be running the Texas Senate next year."
Questions of trust
Holley says the Chronicle interviewed numerous Republican legislators who want "ABP" -- anybody but Patrick -- as lieutenant governor. They raised concerns about trusting him.
That’s one reason the Chronicle, Patrick’s hometown newspaper, endorsed Dewhurst.
Then there are the attack ads questioning Patrick for changing his birth name of Dannie Goeb to his broadcast name, Dan Patrick. And accusations about unpaid debts from his 1980s bankruptcy.
Patrick has said all of that happened long ago and shouldn’t be at issue in the campaign.
“If we disqualify every person who went broke for turning his life around, that’s not the country we have," Patrick said following a recent debate. "I went broke and I changed my name. They don’t have anything to do with anything else."
None of the drama has slowed down the pro-life, Tea Party evangelical.
He's said many times: “I’m an unapologetic Christian, I’m a bold conservative, I’m a Reagan Republican."
His accomplishments in the Texas Senate
The accomplishments he rattles off when describing his seven years in the Texas Senate include placing the phrase “under God” into the Texas pledge; cutting business taxes; passing school reforms that cut the number of standardized tests; and challenging the controversial education curriculum known as CSCOPE.
Patrick’s campaign says he’s most proud of sponsoring a bill that requires physicians to provide a sonogram before performing an abortion.
He says securing the border with more than periodic surges of spending and law enforcement will be his first priority if elected.
“As lieutenant governor it won’t be a surge," he says. It will be a 365-day, 24/7 operation by Texas law enforcement.”
A spokesman for mental health
On Wednesday, as he voted early, Patrick talked to reporters about his mental health records that were recently released by a primary opponent who now supports Dewhurst. They document Patrick’s depression, chemical imbalance and suicide attempt nearly 30 years ago.
Patrick said he recovered and is ready to help others. But he suggested his opponent may not recover from the backlash following the disclosure.
“It’s backfired, and I’m not a victim, I’m not a martyr," Patrick said. "But I will be a spokesman. And I think there are a lot of people out there -- millions -- who go through this at some point in their lives and we need to be real people in the public."
After besting Dewhurst by 13 points in the March primary, Patrick said he feels confident of a win Tuesday night.
He added that he’ll practice what he preaches and forgive Dewhurst for the knockdown, nasty campaigning.