In one of the worst-kept secrets in Texas, State Sen. Dan Patrick announced Thursday that he was throwing his hat in the ring for the 2014 election for Texas lieutenant governor. Patrick, the current Senate Education Chair, announced yesterday that he would be aiming for David Dewhurst's current position, releasing a video citing his conservative credentials and blasting Dewhurst for the latter's handling of the recent legislative session.
"The office of lieutenant governor is supposedly the most powerful in the state and a Republican has held it for over a decade, yet so little has been done to address border security, debt and property tax relief," Patrick said in the video. "It's time for new conservative leadership."
The announcement comes on the heels of Dewhurst's embarrassing show during Wendy Davis's filibuster, in which the lieutenant governor, despite claims to the contrary, appeared to lose control of the entire legislative process. It was reported that Dewhurst lobbied Gov. Rick Perry unequivocally to launch a second special session, which the governor announced would begin Monday.
In making his decision, Patrick has foregone both his Senate seat and his position as the Senate Educational Chair. "I think Sen. Patrick has definitely been thinking about statewide office for the past few years," Mark P. Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University, told Hair Balls. "Now, he has to give up his Senate seat."
As it is, Dewhurst, who is yet to announcement his campaign for reelection, will also be running against Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. While the lieutenant governor's unsuccessful run against Ted Cruz for the 2012 US Senate Seat saw him flanked on the right, Jones said it will be difficult for Patrick to attempt the same tack.
"I think Patrick would like there to be a parallel, contrasting the sequel to Dewhurst-Cruz as Dewhurst-Patrick, but it won't play out that way," he said. "Patrick can't credibly say he's more conservative than Staples, and he's going to have to share the conservative side of the spectrum with Patterson. And [he] endorsed Dewhurst over Cruz, which is going to hurt him."
Patrick's best move, according to Jones, is to angle for a run-off against Dewhurst. While Dewhurst's recent filibuster failures may end up excised -- the abortion legislation will likely pass in the second special session -- Jones noted there are plenty within Austin who have begun doubting the lieutenant governor's leadership credentials.
"Dewhurst has a lot more damage control to do, and he has to do it both with primary voters and key actors in the Republican party and donors," Jones said. "And the only thing worse than ending a political career with a loss to Ted Cruz is ending it finishing third in the primary."
For what it's worth, Patrick is easily one of the most divisive figures in his chamber, among both constituents, those testifying at hearings, and fellow GOP state senators. While he's promised to run a notably clean campaign, it's entirely possible, and entirely likely, that the Dewhurst-Cruz mud-sling we saw in 2012 was just a warm-up.