Patti Hart at the Houston Chronicle reports on the first official debate in the Lieutenant Governor campaign. The debate, held at the Houston Doubletree Hotel, featured all four candidates: incumbent David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and, last but not least, State Senator Dan Patrick.
Many of the questions hinged on Dewhurst’s handling of the Wendy Davis filibuster, which Patrick was especially critical thereof. Dewhurst touted his conservative credentials when responding to these sorts of questions, including the fact that he passed the unfortunate bill eventually and that the
pro-life anti-choice groups endorsed his actions.
However, the much more entertaining portion of the debate hinged upon two ideas brought up by two different challengers, alleging that the Lieutenant Governor is not conservative enough. First, Patterson uttered that laws protecting endangered animals are unwise, pontificating that the “critters ought to die anyways.” He then doubled down on the statement, as the Chronicle, reprinting his quote, noted: “I mean – the blind salamander? How long are we gonna let that little bugger last?”
Patterson’s comments, though, while asinine, were insignificant compared to Dewhurst’s response to one of Patrick’s inquiries (yes, I know, all the names are getting confusing). Patrick defiantly castigated Dewhurst’s record of bipartisanship and cooperation with Democrats, stating that he would reward partisan affiliation much more than seniority in appointing committee heads. His full quote that the Chronicle printed was: “I will not appoint half of the Democrats as chairman of committees.”
Dewhurst responded to the comments, at first, with arithmetic. Democrats control 7 of the 17 committees, or roughly 29% of them. However, Patrick’s comments involved an allegation about “half of the Democrats,” not half of the Committees. There are only 12 Democrats in the Senate, while mean 42% of the caucus is a Committee chair, and if one more was added to the mix it would be exactly 50%. Dewhurst’s response to this was that the committees controlled by Democrats were not important.
The five committees chaired by Democrats are Criminal Justice (Whitmire), Government Organization (Zaffrini), Intergovernmental Relations (Hinojosa), Jurisprudence (West), Open Government (Ellis) & Veterans Affairs (Van de Putte). I will concede that Government Organization & Interovernmental Relaitons are not the most glamorous (or important) subjects, but the other three most definitely are.
The integrity of Criminal Justice, Open Government & Veterans’ Affairs are absolutely among the most important functions of the State. I find it somewhat fitting, therefore, that they are also some of the most neglected by the right wing. Even at the local level, Republicans hate these things.
Hart resurrected the story again today, where she wrote in the Houston Chronicle about the backlash Dewhurst has received, specifically from Leticia Van de Putte of the Veterans’ committee. Van de Putte published an extended open letter critiquing Dewhurst’s insult of her committee:
“You can imagine my great shock when I read the newspaper this morning and learned that you dismissed the work of the VAMI committee…I can only hope that your comments were taken out of context because, Governor Dewhurst, I can assure you that the work of the VAMI committee is important– as a veteran, you should know this. The VAMI committee serves over 1.7 million veterans living in our state and more than 131,000 active-duty military service members. The committee I chair has worked hard to make Texas the number one state for military service members, veterans and their families by passing legislation that eases the transition of service members and their families to civilian life; strengthens Hazelwood higher education benefits for veterans and their families; and addresses the high number of suicides by veterans and serve members.”
As a Democrat in the state of Texas, I would understand if you attacked me personally at a Republican political debate. However, I take great exception with dismissing the work of the committee which I chair, particularly because the VAMI committee works hard to protect the men and women that defend your right to freely debate.”
Van de Putte, for her part, is seen as a possible candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Accordingly, such harshly worded comments give me a slight inkling that she is fanning the fire for a Statewide run.