The top two finishers in the Republican race for lieutenant governor are taking a deep breath Wednesday before they come out swinging in round two.
In an election night surprise, State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston overwhelmed his opponents, capturing 41 percent of the primary vote compared to incumbent Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s 28 percent. The two will now face off in a May 27 runoff.
Dewhurst’s second-place finish was a blow, but at his election night party in Houston, he promised to charge ahead saying: “This race is going into overtime and we’re going to win it.”
The three-term lieutenant governor said he’ll spend the next 12 weeks hammering away at the message he wanted primary voters to hear: that his leadership in the Senate has helped bring jobs and economic stability to Texas.
“I’m going to be sharing my story of my leadership in creating the best business climate in the country. I want to keep this state moving forward, keep it conservative, keep it growing,” Dewhurst said.
But will reinforcing that message be enough to overcome the Dan Patrick freight train that barreled past Dewhurst during the first round?
Patrick has repeatedly attacked the incumbent as an establishment Republican who couldn’t control the Senate when Wendy Davis’ abortion filibuster lead to protests that shut the chamber down.
At his watch party, Patrick credited his first-place primary finish on tea party activists who supported him with social media and their get out the vote efforts.
“The tea party is alive and well,” he told a cheering crowd. “The grassroots is alive and well. Love of God, love of country, love of Texas is alive and well."
Patrick compared his style to that of U. S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the candidate who upset Dewhurst in his last statewide runoff race.
“Texas and America is looking for bold leaders," Patrick said. "The type of leadership Ted Cruz has taken to Washington.”
With the threat of another loss to a tea party candidate, Dewhurst on Tuesday night reached out to the supporters of his other two lieutenant governor opponents: Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
“As you reflect on how they earned your vote, whether it was Todd or Jerry, I think you’re going to discover there’s more that unites us -- you and me -- than divide us. So I’m going to work real hard to obtain your support, your trust, your vote,” Dewhurst said.
A spokesman says Patterson hasn’t decided whether to endorse Patrick or Dewhurst. The Staples campaign says Staples will support the eventual Republican nominee, but he will not endorse either candidate in the runoff.