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Was The Lieutenant Governor’s Race Decided In The Republican Primary?

No Democrat has won statewide office in Texas since 1994.



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During his victory speech Tuesday night here in Houston, Dan Patrick gave a preview of what’s to come in his race against his Democratic opponent.

“We’re going to go into Democrat strongholds, he said. “Some Democrats have said they wanted me to be the nominee. Well, they’ve got me and I’m coming.”

Like many Republican primary elections, much of the lieutenant governor’s race was about who is the more conservative candidate. And Patrick, who’s a tea party favorite, was able to establish himself as the “authentic conservative.”

But will that hold for the general election in November?

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, said Patrick has to be careful not to turn off moderate voters, 60 percent of which are currently undecided in this race.

“What Patrick has to do is to broaden his appeal on other types of conservative issues that go deeper than just the hot-button, hot-flash issues like immigration and border security,” Rottinghaus said. “He has to deepen his discussion about the budget, about taxes, about economic readiness, about education, so he really has to show Republicans that there’s more to being a Republican from Dan Patrick than just those big-button, really flashy issues.”

Jon Taylor, who chairs the political science department at the University of St. Thomas, said Patrick is already doing some of that.

“I think he’d probably argue that he’s appealing to moderates with a low-tax message, with trying to reform certain things regarding education, immigration, what have you, and that these issues should actually resonate,” Taylor said.

At the same time, no Democrat has won statewide office in Texas since the mid-90s, and so many consider the Republican primary as the real election.

“In general, when we have competitive Republican primaries, the reason we see such infighting and such vociferous politicking, is because it tends to be the case that the primaries do equate to the general,” Rottinghaus said.

Taylor agreed that Patrick, like any Republican running for statewide office, is in a pretty good position. But he is a little more cautious.

“Conventional wisdom would be, of course, yes, it’s all over,” Taylor said. “When Abbott won his primary, he basically was tantamount to elected governor. Patrick, by winning the Republican runoff, yeah, he’s going to win lieutenant governor. You know, Bill Paxton the same thing with the attorney general’s race that, you know, across the board it will be Republicans. You can say that, but to me it’s kind of foolish to say it because people are fickle, things change and it’s a long time between June and November.”  

But Taylor said it would take some type of major mistake or revelation about Dan Patrick for Van de Putte to have a shot in the general election.

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