On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick will come face to face — in one of the rare occasions since the March primary — for a round-table debate about the contest for one of the state’s most powerful offices.
The two, deeply embroiled in a bitter and contentious fight to determine the state’s next lieutenant governor, will answer questions during a 45-minute discussion.
Wednesday’s WFAA-produced debate, which will be streamed live on websites such as star-telegram.com and WFAA.com, will give Texas voters another chance to see the candidates in action, which could be important for what is expected to be a sparse runoff election May 27.
“The turnout in the primaries is very low and the runoff lower yet,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “The political junkies like myself will find this of interest since the runoff has become a battle of TV ads between Dewhurst and Patrick and some becoming pretty tough.”
The event will begin at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at WFAA/Channel 8 TV’s Dallas studio.
Jason Whitely, host of WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics, will lead the discussion along with Ross Ramsey of The Texas Tribune. A 30-minute version will be rebroadcast at 9 a.m. May 11 on WFAA.
This is one of the few times the two have interacted since the Republican March primary, in which Patrick, a radio talk show host, took a powerful lead over Dewhurst, a multimillionaire businessman, in a contentious, four-way lieutenant governor’s race. The two took part in a televised debate Friday night in Houston.
In March, Patrick claimed 41 percent of the vote to the 28 percent claimed by Dewhurst. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson shared less than 30 percent of the vote.
Patrick, a staunch conservative who vocally expresses his Christian faith, has spoken out against Dewhurst, who tapped him to lead the Senate Public Education Committee. He has asked Dewhurst to no longer appoint Democrats to head committees and has talked about wanting to change the so-called two-thirds rule, which would let Republicans move forward with legislative measures without any Democratic support.
Dewhurst, who has held the post since 2003, has attacked Patrick through statewide ads over his past — employing illegal immigrants in Houston in the 1980s, filing for bankruptcy in the 1980s and walking away from more than $800,000 in debt through the bankruptcy. He is also criticizing Patrick for changing his name from Dannie Goeb to Dan Patrick to run for political office.
The winner of the Republican primary will face a San Antonio pharmacist, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, in November’s general election.