The gloves came off Wednesday during a lieutenant governor's debate in Dallas.
The ad wars in the race became the focus of the last scheduled media debate between incumbent David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick, the state senator from Houston. One of them will become the GOP nominee on May 27.
After finishing second in the Republican primary, Dewhurst has spent millions on TV attack ads questioning Patrick’s 1980s bankruptcy -- and his character.
That set the stage for Wednesday's debate at WFAA-TV as Patrick lit into Dewhurst for using a bare-chested photo of Patrick taken as he auctioned a shirt for charity.
“So they used a photo of me from an auction for disabled children and tried to smear me as sending some kind of negative image,” Patrick charged.
Dewhurst defended the ad’s message.
“I apologize for using the photograph,” he said. But when challenged, Dewhurst said he continued to air the ad because it “was perfectly true.”
"That is a plain lie"
That ignited a heated exchange in which Dewhurst repeated the ads charges that Patrick hid his assets during a 1988 bankruptcy and pocketed his employees’ federal income tax withholdings.
“That is not true," Patrick shot back. "That is a plain lie."
Dewhurst and Patrick tangled again over a Patrick ad that claims Dewhurst has expanded in-state tuition for undocumented students.
Dewhurst branded that as “completely false,” telling Patrick “you either can’t read a bill or you’re lying.”
Patrick referenced a University of Texas website as proof of his claim.
The tone of the 45-minute debate included charges and counter-charges. Issues of what to do with the state budget surplus and equal pay legislation were buried by heated claims of failed leadership and lying.
Ads are affecting the race
Following the faceoff, Patrick acknowledged the ads had some effect on his lead.
“When you run thousands of ads saying something bad about someone -- and we didn’t have $2 million to respond, of course," Patrick said. "But we’re doing very well. We’re going to win and people are turned off by those ads."
Dewhurst defended his TV ads saying voters need to get to know him and his opponent.
“Our polling is showing that no one knew after the primary ... who Dan Patrick is," Dewhurst said. "They didn’t know anything about him.”
A new ad, inspired by "Frozen"
A few hours after the debate, Dewhurst posted a new, bizarre animated ad that depicts Patrick singing about why he changed his given name from Dannie Goeb to Dan Patrick several years ago. (Watch the ad here.)
Patrick has explained he made the change because people knew him by the named he’d used for many years as a radio and TV personality in Houston.
Patrick said he’s not trying to hide anything.
Original post: David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick debated this morning at WFAA-TV. The 10:30 a.m. debate was livestreamed by WFAA and The Texas Tribune. Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor, faces Patrick, the state senator from Houston. Patrick leads in the polls. If you missed the debate, catch up on their debate from last Friday.
Also, Dewhurst visited the KERA studios Tuesday to talk about his campaign.
"I haven’t done a very good job of getting out and telling the people of Texas what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and opening up and telling people who David is,” Dewhurst told KERA.