POLITICS: Campaigns

Texas Republicans send Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to runoff with state Sen. Dan Patrick

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Associated Press,Republican Party,Texas,2014 Elections,Campaigns

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — First, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's dreams of higher political office were snatched away by Ted Cruz and the tea party, who defeated him in a bid to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate.

Now he's fighting just to keep his job.

Dewhurst finished a distant second in Tuesday's primary and will go to a runoff against firebrand conservative state Sen. Dan Patrick in May. Dewhurst, who has held one of the most powerful positions in Texas for 11 years, now needs a roadmap to stay in the office that presides over the Senate, appoints leadership and controls the flow of legislation in the chamber.

Patrick even made a run at the Republican nomination outright Tuesday night after an aggressive campaign that challenged Dewhurst's conservative credentials and cast him as too moderate for the future of the party.

"In Texas, we will show the rest of the country what it means to be a conservative," Patrick said.

Patrick and Dewhurst emerged from a heated campaign with state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. The Patrick-Dewhurst winner on May 27 will face Democratic nominee state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio in November.

Dewhurst has said this will likely be his last campaign. The multimillionaire businessman has spent more than $25 million from his personal fortune on various campaigns over the years and wants to eventually return to the private sector to earn some of that money back.

Dewhurst hoped he could avoid a runoff similar to 2012. Dewhurst won the most votes in the first round against Cruz two years ago, then lost when Cruz outflanked him to the right and turned out tea-party voters to support him in the runoff.

In his appeal to the right wing of the party, Patrick declared himself a Christian first and conservative second while pegging his campaign on issues such as stopping illegal immigration.

Dewhurst blamed cold, icy weather across parts of the state Tuesday for keeping voters who would have supported him home and predicted better conditions in May.

"This race is going into overtime," Dewhurst told supporters, "and we're going to win it."

Dewhurst has tried to court the tea party voters who rejected him two years ago. He touted a conservative record that includes massive budget cuts, tighter restrictions on abortion, photo identification requirements for voters and restriction efforts that bolstered Republican majorities in the Legislature.

But Patrick attacked Dewhurst as too moderate, noting he had appointed several Democrats as Senate committee chairs. He also noted the 2013 abortion bill filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, a 13-hour spectacle in the Senate chamber.

Patrick said Dewhurst should have cut off Davis from what became her star-making moment for Texas Democrats. Davis won the Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday night and will challenge Republican nominee Greg Abbott in November.

A runoff is likely to raise the volume off attacks between Patrick and Dewhurst in the coming weeks.

Patrick has been dogged late in the campaign by allegations — raised by Patterson's campaign — that he knowingly employed immigrants in the country illegally at Houston-area sports bars he owned in the 1980s, which he denies.

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