This week’s fundraising reports show at least three of the Republicans running for lieutenant governor have the money to compete on TV. The fourth, Jerry Patterson, has a lot less cash, but unveiled an effort to target Hispanic voters.
While opponents were announcing their successful fundraising as proof of voter support, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson was launching Tejanos for Patterson with an online video that recalls the battle at the Alamo, and the men of Mexican heritage who fought.
Patterson has hired Hispanic marketing legend Lionel Sosa from San Antonio to connect with conservative Hispanics who may be turned off by harsh, anti-immigration rhetoric coming from some Republicans.
A cornerstone of the effort will be Patterson’s support of a guest worker program that’s part of the state Republican Party platform.
It would allow immigrant workers to temporarily fill jobs when no U.S. workers are available and require those with immigration violations to pay a fine before participating.
Campaign Manager Chris Elam says Patterson is clear about his position on this issue while his primary opponents dance around it.
“When you look at the other three candidates in this race it’s very difficult for them to articulate their position on a guest worker program. They’ve called for it. They’ve backed away from it. They’ve stood next to it. They’ve stepped away from it,” said Elam.
That may be the case because many tea party Republicans believe a guest worker program is a form of amnesty which they oppose.
Elam says Patterson’s plan includes organizing community events that connect with Tejano voters. He expects the campaign to have enough money to compete on radio and TV. Right now it appears Patterson doesn’t have the dollars to do that while his opponents do.
State Sen. Dan Patrick and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples each have more than $3 million in the bank. Incumbent David Dewhurst has $1.4 million but can personally contribute an unlimited amount.
Patterson has just $560,000 in cash right now- about a third of what he needs for an effective, statewide television campaign.
SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson says any successful contender will have to use TV to engage voters.
“They need to be up on television for a couple of weeks before the voting,” Jillson said.
“Because they are equally unknown or lightly known it’s hard to tell who can emerge, and a good campaign commercial can do you some good in a race like this.”
Jillson defines a good TV commercial as something hard-hitting on a pivotal issue like immigration or abortion. He says voters tend to tune-out when they see glossy biographical ads about a candidate’s achievements.
Jillson and many others believes Dewhurst, who’s been lieutenant governor since 2003, will get the greatest number of votes on March 4, but not enough to win the nomination outright.
The question now: who will place second and force Dewhurst into a runoff? And how much money will it take to do that?
KERA will host a live, televised debate among the lieutenant governor candidates Monday, January 27 at 8 pm.