NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — Four Texas Republicans hoping to be the state’s next lieutenant governor have different plans if elected to the state’s No. 2 job next year.But they stand united in one goal: trying to fend off Democratic efforts by Battleground Texas and candidates such as state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat who is making a bid for governor, to turn this state blue.“Texas is going to turn blue over our dead, blue, cold political bodies,” said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who spoke, as did his three challengers, during a candidate forum hosted Monday Night by the Northeast Tarrant County Republican Club. “We have to make a commitment to go out and work as hard as we we can possibly work and go out and do the blocking and tackling that is needed.“We are all going to have to join together in this effort.”The challengers — state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples — all agreed, although each told the crowd of more than 200 at the North Richland Hills Centre different ways they would keep Texas a GOP state.Patrick said the solution is simple: “Every Republican in office needs to make the effort to go into the minority community and tell them who we are.” He added that the GOP needs to lead on issues that can benefit Texans such as school choice. “We have to let them know we care,” he said.“Democrats are slippery,” he said. “They pretend they care and they don’t.”Patterson said it’s time to address the “Tejano elephant in the room” and reach out to Hispanic Texans, who make up nearly half the public school children statewide. He said he has long reached to Tejano Texans, speaking to LULAC and the American GI Forum.And while the candidates took turns calling out President Barack Obama and other Democrats in Washington, Staples said Dewhurst’s actions — presiding over the Texas Senate as Davis led a filibuster trying to kill a comprehensive abortion bill — could also affect next year’s elections.“David is a good man, but making Wendy Davis a national hero is a failure in leadership and is going to hurt us,” Staples said.Davis drew national attention and fame this year by leading a more than 11-hour filibuster to temporarily kill an abortion bill that was ultimately approved by the GOP-led Legislature.Republicans stopped her filibuster by naming three violations. As Democratic senators protested, deafening noise and chaos erupted in the gallery, preventing legislators from knowing whether they had voted on the measure. Officials later acknowledged that the bill didn’t pass in time, but it did pass weeks later in another special session.Davis’ popularity “could cost us down-ballot seats, judicial seats,” Staples said.Common groundDewhurst, the state’s No. 2 leader since 2003, is seeking a fourth term next year. While Staples, Patterson and Patrick backed Dewhurst in his failed bid for the U.S. Senate last year against Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, all three said this year they are challenging him for the post.They have agreed on several issues — many (except for Patterson) have stated support for repealing the 17th Amendment, which lets voters elect U.S. senators rather than have state legislatures choose them; many have said they want to repeal the state law letting those illegally in the country pay in-state tuition.On Monday night, they all said they would support legislation to allow carrying firearms openly, if it made its way to the Senate floor.But when questioned about trying last year to give state lawmakers special authority to carry concealed handguns in locations where other Texans aren’t allowed to have their guns, Patrick defended his move.He said lawmakers and judicial officials are among those who should be able to carry in areas that are restricted for others, citing district attorneys who have been killed and lawmakers who have been threatened.Patrick said he came face to face with a Texan who threatened him at his home, in a gated community. And he said a man armed with a gun showed up in his Senate office.“We live in a society where some people target people,” he said.Federal interventionAll four candidates vowed to fight against federal intervention in Texas.“This president on an almost weekly basis violates federal law,” Dewhurst said. “We have to fight him every day. We have to be vigilant.”The others agreed.“We have to fight, fight, fight all the time,” Patterson said. “Never say die, never quit.”The first day to file for a spot on the March 4 primary ballot is Nov. 9.
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley