Candidates battle over GOP base

If you’re looking for a political campaign that defines the battle that’s occurring within the Texas Republican Party, then you might want to tune in to Panhandle PBS at 7 p.m. Friday.

Two men will debate for an hour about which one of them should be the GOP nominee for Texas lieutenant governor.

One of them is the incumbent, David Dewhurst; the other is a state senator, Dan Patrick. These two men finished at the top of the heap of a four-man Republican primary slate of candidates in March. Patrick, who finished first, didn’t get the 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority he needed to avoid a runoff.

That leads us to the May 27 runoff between Patrick and Dewhurst, with the winner facing off this fall against Democratic nominee state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.

The debate is being held in Houston, the hometown of both GOP rivals.

It will highlight what’s happening within the state GOP. Patrick and Dewhurst are seeking to outflank each other on the right.

Patrick has made it known that he intends to run the Texas Senate differently from the way Dewhurst has run it since taking office in 2003. One big change might be to appoint Republicans as chairman of all Senate committees. Dewhurst has handed some of those chairmanships to Democrats over the years.

Dewhurst is seeking to re-establish his own conservative credentials within the party and has vowed to hold the line on state spending during the next legislative session.

It’s been a lively campaign for what’s been called the most powerful office in Texas. The debate to be broadcast Friday night on Panhandle PBS will give Texas Republicans one more chance to decide which man is better suited to run for the office this fall.

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