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In The GOP Lieutenant Governor's Contest, It's A Race For Second

GOP Lt. Governor Candidates faced off on statewide TV in a live debate from KERA's Dallas studios. L to R: Jerry Patterson, Dan Patrick, Todd Staples, David Dewhurst

As Texans decide primary races today, the name of the game in the GOP contest for lieutenant governor is coming in second and forcing the leading candidate into a runoff. 

David Dewhurst, the incumbent lieutenant governor, is widely expected to finish first in the four-way race to keep his job. 

But he’s not expected to get more than 50 percent of the vote, and that’s what’s needed for Dewhurst to win the Republican nomination outright.

State Sen. Dan Patrick from Houston is the tea party-backed candidate many expect to finish second and force Dewhurst into a May 27 runoff race.

But Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples hasn’t given up. His strategy for coming in second includes TV and radio ads that question Patrick’s commitment to ending illegal immigration.

Staples' 60-second statewide ad claims: “One candidate can’t seem to tell the truth. Dan Patrick tells voters he’s tough on immigration.  Yet he knowingly hired four illegal immigrants to work in his bars.”

Dewhurst, the presumed frontrunner, is also airing radio and TV ads that attack Patrick for hiring undocumented workers at the sports bar he owned several decades ago, but Dewhurst’s campaign declined to make his ads available.  Patrick has said he didn’t know his establishment had hired an undocumented man who came forward several weeks ago. 

Patrick has responded with his own television spot in which he says: “My opponents have launched a smear campaign because they’ve lost the political argument. I have the most conservative voting record in the (Texas) Senate and never backed down from a fight.”

The fourth candidate in the race, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, lacks the money to campaign on TV. On the radio, Patterson’s ad promotes his record on gun rights and his defense of the U.S. Constitution: “He believes the Second Amendment protects you and me and the 10th Amendment protects Texas.”

Many believe if there’s a close finish between Dewhurst and his competitors, he’ll be vulnerable in a runoff.

The Republican who eventually becomes the nominee will face off against Democratic State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte from San Antonio in the fall.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.