Tough call, but voters should keep Dewhurst

05/13/2014 5:24 PM

05/14/2014 1:58 PM

The last several weeks of the hotly contested race to become the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor look a lot like the weeks and months that preceded them: nasty and hollow.

On the issues, there isn’t much to distinguish Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick, 64, from incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, 68, both of whom are tried-and-true conservatives.

They have only nuanced differences on policy: Both favor fortifying the border with Mexico, increasing restrictions on abortion, expanding school choice, restraining government spending, limiting unnecessary regulations and maintaining or expanding gun rights.

However, the issues have not been the focus of the bareknuckle contest. Instead, the arch-rivals have fixated on everything but.

Consider the round-table discussion on Wednesday sponsored by WFAA, which quickly devolved into a vicious spitting contest between the two seasoned politicians, neither of whom believed that taking the high road was an option.

For Dewhurst, that meant calling Patrick a liar playing victim, and criticizing his past failed business ventures and bankruptcy.

Patrick, a former radio talk show host, shot back, accusing Dewhurst of leaving the Senate to have dinner during the debate over abortion legislation that catapulted state Sen. Wendy Davis to fame.

It’s been a nasty and exasperating race — the kind that causes voters to disengage and find something better to do on election day.

We hope voters reconsider.

While Dewhurst’s insults have been particularly disappointing, they belie his 11-year record as lieutenant governor and the president of the Senate, where he has been effective, fair and reasonable.

It’s unlikely, were Patrick to win, those same attributes could be ascribed to the GOP nominee. And those virtues will matter in November, when the victor will face Democrat Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio.

Last week, Dewhurst also received two useful endorsements from Jerry Patterson, Texas land commissioner and a former political rival who finished fourth in the March primary, and from former congressman, presidential candidate and libertarian hero Ron Paul, both of which boost Dewhurst’s credibility.

The lieutenant governor, who says he sees this race as his last, came in second in the March primary, 11 percentage points behind Patrick. That means victory in the runoff will be an uphill battle.

We believe he can make the climb.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends David Dewhurst in the Republican primary runoff for lieutenant governor.

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