First things first, I’m sorry for the lack of activity. I’ve had a remarkably busy week, and have been driving all around the State for the past 36 hours (fun fact: there are cities in Texas named “Nixon,” “Pawnee” and “Three Rivers”). Now, I’m back in Houston for the weekend in observance of a religious holiday and some personal odds-and-ends.
Back on Monday night, the only debate in the Lieutenant Governor’s campaign was held in Austin. State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Harris County), the Republican candidate, and State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic candidate, squared off against one another in a battle of words that was exceedingly civil when it comes to the rough and tumble world of Texas politics. Without getting into too much of the minutia of the debate, it was characterized by Patrick’s total extremism, despite coming off as an ostensibly formidable foe. The two argued over education, abortion, gay marriages and taxes…oh my goodness, lots of taxes.
Patrick began his comments by claiming, completely falsely, that Van de Putte has recently voted for a State Income Tax. Those who do not believe that the sky is red, of course, are aware that the Texas Constitution has effectively precluded the Legislate from considering a State Income Tax for many years now. He just made it up. Van de Putte, meanwhile, alleged that her opponent supported hiking the sales tax. To that allegation, Patrick admitted it was true, but insisted that it was not a tax increase. Rather, he said, it was a “swap.”
On other issues, Patrick tacked heavily to the right. He reiterated opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. He confidently defended his opposition to gay marriage and continued drugging up so-called tort reform. He equated the expansion of Medcaid, the brainchild of Lyndon Baines Johnson, with the other boondoggles of Obamacare. Needless to say, the big headline here is that Patrick has not mellowed his rhetoric one bit whatsoever in advance of the general election.
Paul Burka at Texas Monthly had some harsh words for Patrick, calling him “most formidable radical politician the state has produced in my career of covering the Legislature,” which, by the way, is nearly 50 years. He said that the true Patrick is a “conservative radical,” but I beg to differ. The true Patrick is a facade; he is merely puts on an ideology that works best for him. Perhaps in the past that type of populism would be pragmatic, but not today. This is an era of pitchforks, and Patrick would not be the type of leader who would stand up against the lynch mob…he would be the one leading the charge and giving the speech upon the soapbox.
Recently, the Houston Chronicle‘s Editorial Board even went of its way to write a thoughtful endorsement of Van de Putte. It is a touching piece, and covers all the key features while taking a few pot-shots at Patrick. This, on a year when they are endorsing Republicans in a spirit of “going along to get along” even more than usual.
Back to the debate itself, I think Van de Putte won, but I don’t think it will get her any traction. People in Texas don’t watch things like debates, it’s not her fault. The format, though, was still pretty bad. Candidate-to-candidate interaction was minimal and many of the questions were just low-hanging fruit for the sake of fireworks.