The two state senators hoping to be Texas’ next lieutenant governor appeared at their only scheduled debate Monday night. Republican Dan Patrick and Democrat Leticia Van de Putte faced off in Austin.
The hourlong debate started at 7 p.m. We streamed the debate live here on KERANews.org – we also aired it on KERA 90.1 FM and KERA-TV (Channel 13).
If you missed the debate, watch it here:
Ross Ramsey, the Texas Tribune executive editor, moderated the debate at KLRU, the PBS station in Austin.
(In other debate news, Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis will appear at the KERA studios Tuesday night for their second governor's debate. That will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday on KERA-TV (Channel 13), KERA 90.1 FM and right here on KERANews.org. Learn more here.)
KERA's Bill Zeeble offered this preview of Monday night's face-off:
On everything from immigration to education, frontrunner Dan Patrick and Leticia Van de Putte agree on nearly nothing. Patrick has consistently pounded the border security drum since he started campaigning. In his appearance during the recent Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, he beat it some more.
“We must secure the border to protect Texans from terrorist and criminals that come here," Patrick said.
Van de Putte said at the same event last week that Patrick’s words scared both residents and business owners along the border.
“Business leaders, law enforcement [and] local elected officials have told us that the very harsh rhetoric and tones that have been taken are hurting their ability to attract jobs,” Van de Putte said.
Expect border security to come up again Monday night.
Van de Putte says her Hispanic heritage means she’s more in touch with Latinos than Patrick. He argues Republican values line up well with Hispanics' relatively conservative culture.
He says that includes education, which is also expected to pop up tonight. Patrick likes government vouchers for private schools. He tried but failed to get a funding bill through the Legislature last session and vows to try it again.
Patrick said: “If you can’t find a public school you want to go to, if you can’t find a charter school to go to, then you could then get a scholarship from private business and take that money to go to a Catholic school, a Christian school, a private school, wherever you want to go.”
Van de Putte would spend money to improve schools that need it instead of giving a handful of students public money to attend private school. She would also tap the state’s rainy day fund to help pay for Texas high school graduates who want to go to college.
“I’m calling for the Texas Promise Plan,” Van de Putte said. “You could take a one-time allocation of $2 billion. Take it to the voters. And then the proceeds from that could fund every qualified high school graduate for two years of community college or that certification program.”
Patrick is wary about tapping the rainy day fund for education. He and other Republicans didn’t do it more than three years ago when the education budget was cut by $5.4 billion.
“And the schools survived and we did fine,” Patrick said.
That’s debatable. More than 600 Texas school districts sued over the funding cuts and won in court, when a judge ruled the slashed budget was unconstitutional. Education and other topics like health care and state taxes are all fodder for tonight’s face off.
The Associated Press reports on Monday's lieutenant governor's debate:
Republican Dan Patrick, a conservative radio talk show host and Houston tea party darling, is favored in November. That means Democrat Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio pharmacist, has more to gain Monday night when the pair meet in Austin.
Van de Putte had requested five debates, but Patrick only agreed to one.
Van de Putte says she's a pro-business Democrat.
Patrick has pushed a hard-line immigration stance, calling for securing the Texas-Mexico border at all costs. As Senate Education Committee chairman, he pushed to cut the number of tests required for high school graduation from 15 to five last year.
Van de Putte, though, wants even less standardized testing.
At the Texas Tribune Festival, Patrick and Van de Putte appeared on the same stage, but at different times. KERA’s Bill Zeeble attended the festival and filed this report:
Through his entire campaign. Republican Dan Patrick has run on tougher border security, saying federal authorities have dropped the ball. He said it again this weekend.
“We must secure the border,” insisted Patrick, “to protect Texans from terrorist and criminals that come here.”
Accused by Van de Putte of being anti-Latino and anti-immigrant, Patrick insisted he’s not. He said his positions are backed by business people on the border.
Democrat Leticia Van de Putte called Patrick’s border comments “toxic.”
“Business leaders, law enforcement, local elected officials,” Van de Putte said, “have told us that the very harsh rhetoric and tones that have been taken are hurting their ability to attract jobs.”