“Street brawl” GOP runoff tones down at debate

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The candidates in the GOP runoff for lieutenant governor met at a forum Tuesday as voters cast their ballots.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Senator Dan Patrick spoke at the event in Salado, Texas that was hosted by the Central Texas Tea Party.

The debate did not have many of the personal attacks that have become common in the race.

The candidates took similar stances on climate change and same-sex marriage.

“So it’s in the (Texas) constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Dewhurst. “So quite frankly, if someone comes up and starts arguing that, it’s in the constitution.”

“Here’s the thing that really concerns me about the activist judges in cases like this,” said Patrick. “The people of Texas…. have spoken in large numbers that Texas stands for marriage between a man and a woman.”

The candidates highlighted differences when it came to leadership and working with Democrats, along with other points.

Dewhurst is vying to keep the seat he’s held since 2003 in the closest primary challenge for lieutenant governor since he took office.

State Senator Dan Patrick got more than 40 percent of the vote in the March primary, forcing a runoff.

Less than two years ago Dewhurst was running for a U.S. Senate seat. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz now holds that seat.

Dewhurst had a big name. Still, Ted Cruz won with strong Tea Party support.

Director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT Sherri Greenberg says the race between Dewhurst and Patrick race has some similarities to the Dewhurst / Cruz runoff.

“Here again, you see a situation where Dewhurst, in fact is the incumbent (this time, in a crowded field. Dan Patrick, Tea Party candidate, trying to get into a runoff, which he did,” Greenberg said. “Since that March election, it’s been exactly what you’ve expected: a street brawl.”

Greenberg says when it comes to the issues, the candidates are pretty similar. When they do talk about the issues the candidates focus on immigration, securing the border, education and taxes.

Now, both candidates are trying to highlight any differences and they’re focusing on leadership and trust.

“I think you can expect more of the same [Tuesday],” Evan Smith, editor in chief and CEO of KXAN News partner The Texas Tribune.”Dewhurst needs to figure out a way to get Dan Patrick out of the lead and to somehow disqualify him in the race and I think we’re going to see live what we’ve seen virtually the last week.”

Early voting started Monday and ends Friday. Election day is May 27.

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