Dewhurst says Davis will fail if she seeks statewide office

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst hopes that Texans will finally stop talking about state Sen. Wendy Davis by the end of next year.

Speaking Tuesday night to Republicans gathered in Davis’ hometown, Dewhurst said he doesn’t believe that Davis — the Democrat who led a more than 10-hour filibuster to temporarily kill a comprehensive abortion bill — will succeed if she runs for higher office.

“It’s my hope, my friends, that about a year from now that people are saying, ‘Why were we talking about Wendy Davis?’” he told more than three dozen people gathered for a meeting of the Tarrant County Republican National Hispanic Assembly at Ol’ South Pancake House in Fort Worth.

“I know Wendy Davis,” he said. “And I don’t think she stands a chance running for statewide office.”

Davis has said she hopes to announce after Labor Day whether she will run for governor or seek re-election in Senate District 10.

Dewhurst, the state’s No. 2 leader since 2003, is seeking a fourth term next year. Tuesday’s stop in Fort Worth was one of several campaign appearances he’s making with grassroots groups statewide.

After losing a bid last year to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate to Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, Dewhurst has drawn a number of challengers in next year’s election, including Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.

On Tuesday night, he opened up about the night the abortion bill died in the Senate after Davis’ filibuster, which drew nationwide attention and calls from Democrats for her to run for governor.

When the bill returned from the House with just 13 hours left in the special session, Dewhurst said, he knew that it could be talked to death.

So he gave senators a choice: abandon the longtime tradition — which Republicans might someday need to block a key measure — or work together to break the filibuster by pointing out possible violations of procedure.

“The senators all decided to keep the filibuster,” he said. “There wasn’t one person arguing against keeping the filibuster. I said, ‘Fine, that leads us here. You’re going to have to work with me. … I’m ready to break the filibuster.’”

Republican senators called points of order as Davis spoke, trying to reach the magic number of three violations to end the filibuster.

“The parliamentarian and I felt that three of them were justified,” Dewhurst said.

Once he ruled that the third point of order was valid, Dewhurst said, “all those paid protesters [in the gallery] … erupted. This was all politics.”

He gave the order for the Texas Department of Public Safety to clear the gallery, but apparently there weren’t enough troopers to do the job, he said.

He said Democrats appealed the ruling to stop the filibuster, eating up more time as the clock ticked toward midnight.

“They stretched it out and stretched it out,” Dewhurst said. “We overrode that almost 11/2 hours later. By that time, the noise was so great. … I hadn’t actually anticipated that noise.”

So he directed the secretary of the Senate to take the vote and began herding senators to the secretary to cast their votes.

Dewhurst said he thought the vote had beaten the clock but was told that not only did the vote have to occur but the measure had to be signed before the end of the session as well.

Around 3 a.m., Dewhurst acknowledged that the bill didn’t pass.

In the end, though, Gov. Rick Perry called another special session and the measure was passed and signed within weeks.

And if he had to do it all over again, Dewhurst said, he would change only one thing: He would have more troopers in the gallery.

Phone flap fallout

Dewhurst was in the middle of a media firestorm this month after he called the Allen Police Department to find out how to get a relative out of jail.

He told the Star-Telegram that he doesn’t know how the criminal case was resolved for his relative but that there was “no reason to drag her through anything.”

“I wish I had condensed my questions down to one minute. But how would you feel if your family called you late one night in tears about a relative who had been arrested and asked what they could do to try to get her out of jail?” Dewhurst said.

During the call, Dewhurst mentioned several times that he is the lieutenant governor of Texas.

“I appreciate law enforcement, but this is one of those situations where I just hate to see, well, this is just the circumstances that give it a bad name,” Dewhurst said during the call. “I intend to jump into this and see what can be done to prevent this very nice lady through a miscarriage of justice.”

On Tuesday night, Dewhurst said he made the call to find out what the procedures were.

In the end, his relative had to spend the night in jail.

“I don’t want to be a man who doesn’t stand up and try to help his family,” he said.

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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