As the raucous Republican race for lieutenant governor draws to a close, KERA invited both David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick to sit down and talk about their records and vision. Dewhurst accepted; Patrick did not. This is the first of two profiles of the candidates, plus the video conversation with Dewhurst.
David Dewhurst is a policy wonk. He loves to talk about the technicalities of legislation and dig into the minutiae of the budget.
That may not sound exciting, but the 68-year-old, who built an oil and gas business, believes his ability to digest details is one of his strongest skills as lieutenant governor, a job that puts him in charge of the Texas Senate.
“I like to solve problems. I’m a businessman. I love doing things for Texans to help them,” Dewhurst says.
“I know my being involved -- didn’t do it all alone -- but my being involved in cutting taxes 54 times for almost $16 billion has helped us create the best business climate in Texas, (better than) any other state. It’s created more jobs.”
Dewhurst counts the tax cuts as one of his two greatest accomplishments during his 11 years as lieutenant governor.
The other is passage of Jessica’s Laws, which increased penalties against child sex offenders and given prosecutors more tools to convict them.
Dewhurst says he began working on the issue after witnessing an execution when Gov. Rick Perry couldn’t attend. The condemned man had sexually abused and killed a 5-year-old girl.
“It was so horrific that I spent almost the next year of my life, whenever I had the time, talking to sexual abuse victims, parents, police officers, DAs around the state,” Dewhurst said. “I passed the toughest Jessica’s Law in the country. And I think that’s helped."
As for the skill he most struggles with?
“I think my communication," he said. "When my dad was killed by a drunk driver, Mom says I was so traumatized I stuttered. I couldn’t talk. So I speak slower.”
Those who know Dewhurst say he seems ill at ease in some settings.
On the campaign trail, he’s often outmaneuvered by his quick-witted, sharp-tongued opponent. Patrick is a broadcast personality who blames Dewhurst for Wendy Davis’ abortion filibuster that shut down the Texas Senate.
Dewhurst compares his style and Patrick’s this way:
“He’s almost been a disc jockey too long. He’s always trying to get publicity,” Dewhurst says. “It takes judgment. It takes ability to think through the next step. If you’re constantly running for a sound bite. If you’re constantly running for publicity. If this is about you, then you’ve got problems. What I’ve tried to do is have the senators do a good job. Work with them. If the senators do well, fine. I’m gonna do well.”
If he overcomes Patrick’s lead and wins another term, Dewhurst says he wants to make sure all Texas students have great teachers. He wants to use technology to bring virtual instruction to more classrooms. He promises to get the dirt flying on new water projects. The inclumbent believes his record is proof he can do it.
Coming Friday: KERA takes a look at State Sen. Dan Patrick’s style and vision.