There hasn’t been too much of a spotlight on the Texas lieutenant governor’s race since the primary election last month.
Current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick advanced to the runoff, beating out two other candidates in the Republican primary.
But while it seemed as if there was a debate and new political ad on TV every week in the months leading up to the election, the two remaining candidates have kept it low-key since.
Brandon Rottinghaus, associate professor of political science at the University of Houston, said much of the race is now taking place behind the scenes.
“I think that both candidates are trying to shore up their base,” he said. “I think they are also both trying to court specific power brokers who have access to both fundraising potential and to voters.”
Rottinghaus said instead of spending money on TV ads, both campaigns are focusing on mailers targeted at the types of voters they really care about.
He said Patrick is in the driver’s seat of the race after he beat Dewhurst by 13 percentage points in the first round of the primaries. But, he said, Dewhurst can still win if his campaign plays up some of the controversial things Patrick has said, such as referring to immigration from Mexico as an “invasion.”
“If it’s the case that they can take that a step farther and say that if you elect Dan Patrick as a nominee for the Republican Party for this particular office, it’s going to hurt the Republicans’ chances. It’s going to hurt Attorney General Greg Abbott’s chances and might actually give this seat to the Democrats, which would in some ways bless this myth of the resurgence of the Democratic Party,” Rottinghaus said.
Mark Jones, chair of Rice University’s Department of Political Science, said chances look very bleak for Dewhurst to win the runoff and that explains the lack of full-scale campaigning right now.
“Patrick realizes that he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing at a relatively moderate level and not commit any errors,” Jones said. “And Dewhurst effectively doesn’t have an idea of what he’s going to do and as a result has been sitting on the sidelines more than anything else.”
Jones says Dewhurst is probably pondering if he should go negative on Patrick. But he says that’s unlikely to be successful and would harm Dewhurst’s reputation.
“I think it’s important to keep in mind that David Dewhurst is a very honorable man and that engaging in a slash-and-burn negative campaign simply is not his style,” Jones said.
“He certainly is a strong competitor and doesn’t want to lose but he doesn’t want to also tarnish his reputation and go against what he himself knows is wrong simply to try to win in a situation where winning is almost impossible.”
The Republican nominee for lieutenant governor will be decided on May 27.
The winner will then face Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.