JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Legislature got a new dose of tea-party infused leadership with the election Tuesday of Republican Dan Patrick as lieutenant governor, the powerful office that presides over the state Senate.
Patrick, a state senator from Houston, easily beat Democratic Senate colleague Leticia Van de Putte, riding yet another crushing wave of Republican dominance in Texas statewide offices.
The lieutenant governor’s office has been held by Republicans since 1999, and Patrick’s victory ensured the GOP retained its grip on the nation’s second-most populous state.
Patrick finished first in a bitter, four-way Republican primary before crushing 11-year incumbent David Dewhurst in a runoff. Better funded in deeply conservative Texas, Patrick was the general election’s wire-to-wire front-runner over Van de Putte, who was trying to become the state’s first female lieutenant governor.
Dewhurst presided over a wave of conservative legislation during the past decade, and Patrick’s landslide victory raises questions about how much further right his leadership in the Senate could push Texas. The state is in court battles over recently passed voter identification and abortion restrictions.
A radio talk show host, Patrick headed the Senate Education Committee. He’s a fierce proponent of school vouchers and charter schools. He’s also taken a hard-line stance on immigration, promising to secure the Texas-Mexico border at the expense of popular, long-standing policies.
Often confrontational, Patrick has vowed to cut property taxes but would consider raising sales taxes slightly.
Patrick’s campaign proposals resonated with Republican voters such as Charles Yancey of Lubbock, who expects him to deliver.
“It’s all hype at the beginning,” Yancy, 51, said at a coffee shop where he took refuge from a morning downfall. “They get elected and then they forget about what they were elected to do.”
In a statement, Van de Putte thanked her supporters and congratulated Patrick on “running a disciplined campaign.”
“We will never stop sharing our dream,” Van de Putte said.
Patrick wants to lower the Senate’s traditional two-thirds voting threshold to pass bills to a 60 percent majority, which would almost precisely match the 19-12 numerical advantage the GOP had in the 31-member chamber heading into the election. Republicans have been two votes shy of being able to overrun Democratic voting blocs against some key bills in recent sessions.
In the House, every seat in the 150-member chamber was up for election, but gerrymandered districts weren’t expected to produce much change in the 95-55 majority Republicans held in 2013. Republican Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio, who faces no major-party opposition in the election, could face a GOP challenger to be presiding officer of the chamber in January.
Even some Republican voters said they weren’t sure how much further to the right their party should move.
“I’m a conservative,” said Cosmo Tomacelli of El Paso, who voted straight Republican. “But a more conservative Texas Legislature? That’s a tough call.”
Associated Press writers Juan Carlos Llorca in El Paso, Jamie Stengle in Fort Worth and Betsy Blaney in Lubbock contributed to this report.