Posted by: maboulette | October 26, 2014

ONLY IN TEXAS

AUSTIN, Texas — Dan Patrick is a political dirt-digger’s dream, a candidate with a history of incendiary comments, a bankruptcy and two hospitalizations for mental health issues, one after an attempted suicide.

He is also poised to become lieutenant governor of Texas and thus one of the most powerful and important politicians in the country’s second most-populous state.

The tea party movement may be flagging elsewhere in the country. But here in Texas it’s going strong, shoving establishment Republicans out the door and promising to push this already deeply conservative state even further right.

Texas is no longer the bastion of country-club Republicanism that twice elected George W. Bush governor in the 1990s. Even the departing governor, Rick Perry, might have a hard time surviving a GOP primary these days; Patrick has gained considerable traction with a pledge to end in-state tuition for college students in the country illegally, a policy that Perry defended at great political cost when he ran for president in 2012.

While Patrick’s story, with its harrowing valleys, may be a testament to perseverance and personal redemption, his expected election Nov. 4 also speaks to the impotence of Texas Democrats, whom Patrick promises to further undercut with the formidable powers the lieutenant governor wields as the state Senate’s presiding officer.

He has promised to appoint fewer Democratic committee chairs and to scrap the long-standing convention that requires two-thirds support to bring a bill to a vote on the floor; the latter has been one of the few levers of power held by outnumbered Democrats in Austin, the state capital.

But it’s not just Democrats who fret about Patrick’s ascension. Many fellow Republicans wince at his heat-seeking rhetoric, especially on illegal immigration, and fear his short-term success will hurt the party in the long run, given Texas’ shifting demographics and rapidly growing Latino and Asian populations.
“It’s going to bite us in the butt,” Jerry Patterson, who lost to Patrick in a nasty four-way GOP primary, said in an interview. Patterson, the state land commissioner, plans to vote for the Libertarian candidate for lieutenant governor rather than support his party’s nominee.

Patrick, 64, a two-term state senator from Houston, came to the Legislature via talk radio and, before that, sports broadcasting, where he acquired a reputation for stunts such as painting himself blue to support Houston’s former NFL team, the Oilers. (He shares a name with a better-known sportscaster who works for NBC.)

Along the way there was his bankruptcy, owing to a failed chain of sports bars, and two hospitalizations in the mid-1980s, for anxiety and depression.


Responses

  1. Seems like they set the bar pretty low for Texas politics!


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