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David Dewhurst Tells KERA Character Will Be An Issue In Debate With Dan Patrick

KERA has invited both Republican candidates for lieutenant governor to our studios to discuss their qualifications for the job and their visions for the state.

David Dewhurst, the incumbent, sat down with KERA on Tuesday, on the eve of the last scheduled media debate before his May 27 runoff election with Dan Patrick, the state senator from Houston.

We asked Dewhurst: How is it that after more than a decade as lieutenant governor, you finished 13 points behind Dan Patrick in the primary, and now you’re scrambling to keep your job?

Dewhurst's answer: Communications. On the airwaves and on the ground.

“I don’t think our ads (during the primary) connected with people as well as I wanted them to,” Dewhurst said.

“(And) I haven’t done a very good job of getting out and telling the people of Texas what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and opening up and telling people who David is.”

Dewhurst says that’s what he’s trying to do now as he races to close the gap. 

“First of all, I want to make sure voters understand things just don’t happen in the legislature and it takes a proactive effort to get things done,” he said during a 47-minute interview at the KERA studios.

Dewhurst wants to remind voters of his record

Dewhurst says his goal for Wednesday’s WFAA-TV debate is to remind voters that during his watch as lieutenant governor, taxes were cut and the Texas economy outperformed other states. 

He says he also wants to show a contrast between himself and his opponent. It’s something he’s trying to do with television attack ads that claim Patrick didn’t pay taxes, pocketed employees’ federal income tax withholdings and hid assets during a bankruptcy.  

“All we’re doing is we’re quoting things he’s said, things he’s done, from newspapers, from TV shows,” Dewhurst said in defense of the hard-hitting ads, which Patrick claims are filled with lies.

Patrick reminds that Dewhurst also went through a bankruptcy in the 1980s. Patrick has said he learned from his mistakes and now has a successful broadcasting business. He’s blamed his old financial troubles on a tough economy and suggested it’s not relevant to pick on him for things that happened 30 years ago.

Character counts, Dewhurst says

Why does Dewhurst believe it matters?

“It matters only if this is a pattern,” Dewhurst said. “It matters only if this is simply an example of character.”   

“Because if we’re both real conservative and we both agree with each other on policy 98 percent of the time, then it’s a question of who has the character and the ability and the vision to lead this state forward over the next four years. And I submit, on the facts, it’s me.”

Dewhurst says the matter of character includes releasing federal income taxes. He’s released his tax records from 2009-2012. Patrick hasn’t released his.

“Let the people of Texas see what you’re trying to hide,” Dewhurst said in his challenge to Patrick. “You’re trying to hide something.”

Dan Patrick has fired his own volleys at Dewhurst, including ads that question Dewhurst’s record on immigration.

Debates: When to watch

The Dewhurst-Patrick debate at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday will be live-streamed online by WFAA-TV and the Texas Tribune. (Update: If you missed it, watch it here.)

Their televised debate last week in Houston is posted at KERANews.organd will re-air on KERA-TV at 9 p.m. Friday.

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.