AUSTIN, Texas — In the most contentious matchup yet in what has become an increasingly vicious Republican runoff for lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick and incumbent David Dewhurst hurled personal attacks at each other in Dallas on Wednesday.
The animosity between the two candidates became apparent within the first few minutes of the event, a political roundtable hosted by WFAA-TV in Dallas that included Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey.
Asked about the tone of the race, Patrick, a Houston state senator, brought up a character-focused attack ad the Dewhurst campaign began airing two weeks ago that features a shirtless image of Patrick. The ad was meant to suggest Patrick is irresponsible.
Patrick told the audience that the photo was taken at a charity event.
“He knew the photo was from charity,” Patrick said, pressing Dewhurst but not allowing him to answer. “Why didn’t you take it down? Why didn’t you take the ad down?”
Dewhurst said the message behind the ad was true but admitted it was a mistake to use the photo. He said his campaign tried to get in contact with the charity foundation for which the event was held to apologize.
At another point during the hour-long event, where the two candidates repeatedly interrupted each other, Patrick accused Dewhurst of “leaving in the middle of the pro-life debate to get a happy meal.”
Patrick has blamed last summer's filibuster of anti-abortion legislation on Dewhurst’s lack of leadership, and has frequently mentioned a dinner break Dewhurst took during floor discussion on the bill.
“Dan, are you okay?” Dewhurst asked, denying the claim that he left for two hours. “That is nuts. That is really nuts.”
“You lost control of the entire Senate,” Patrick exclaimed.
“No one believes that but you,” Dewhurst replied.
Patrick also accused Dewhurst of passing a bill that allowed undocumented immigrants to receive free hospital care, to which Dewhurst replied, “This man continually lies.”
The debate grew heated once again when it came to the topic of Patrick’s bankruptcy in the 1980s, which Dewhurst has highlighted in television ads.
Claiming he hasn’t hidden anything and that he always pays his debts, Patrick brought up his opponent’s bankruptcy in an oil drilling business in 1982.
Dewhurst also maintained that he paid his debts and bills from the bankruptcy.
“I’m not attacking you,” Patrick said.
“Yes you are,” Dewhurst shot back.