Patterson Tars and Feathers Patrick as Chicken Hawk

GOP primary run-off drags up war service and draft dodging claims

Jerry Patterson: Gunning for Dan Patrick's lack of a war record
Jerry Patterson: Gunning for Dan Patrick's lack of a war record

If you haven't been following the Republican race to become lieutenant governor, run and grab some popcorn. What was already a slobberknocker has become a no-holds-barred blood feud, as former candidate Jerry Patterson accused Dan Patrick of being a draft dodger.

This all came as part of the retiring Land Commissioner's endorsement of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for re-election. Patrick came out of the first round clearly ahead with 41%, with Dewhurst lagging badly as the incumbent, at 28%, and Patterson scraping in fourth behind former agriculture commissioner Todd Staples. But it seems Patterson isn't heading off quietly into the sunset, but is instead lobbing haymakers and spilling GOP family secrets about the self-declared king of the Senate Tea Party.

In a statement, Patterson said that "David Dewhurst is not perfect" but that his opponent, the Houston Senator, is "a man who has repeatedly violated honor and integrity in his campaign." Also, he said that Patrick "is a man who wields his faith as a weapon for personal and political gain." Wait, there's more. He's also "a man who has proven he will say anything to get elected." Case in point, that he flip-flopped in his support of another former Dewhurst opponent, now Sen. Ted Cruz as was politically expedient.

But where Patterson really stung Patrick was in dragging up some old data from the era of the Vietnam war, when Patrick (or, as he was known then by his birth name, Dannie Scott Goeb) should have been eligible for the draft. But somehow, he didn't serve.

In one of the most impressive pieces of oppo research in decades, Patterson laid out his 10 reasons why he wasn't endorsing Goeb (sorry, Patrick). Basically, it came down to this: Patrick's birth date gave him a low draft number, so he should have been called up. Moreover, since he graduated from the University of Maryland before the end of the draft in 1973, how did he not end up in fatigues?

This clearly contrasts with Dewhurst, who not only served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, but was also a CIA case officer in Bolivia in the 1970s.

Now, with anyone else, Patterson's attack on Patrick might seem like grandstanding or a cheap stunt. But there are two thing everyone within the orbit of the Capitol agrees on about Patterson. One (bar his obsession with guns on public property) he actually takes his job as steward of state land very seriously. Two, that he takes his time as a Marine Flight Officer very, very seriously. A veteran of the Vietnam War himself, he seems unlikely to use the term draft dodger for cheap political collateral.

Patrick's people have fired back that this is completely unreasonable, that their candidate was in fact drafted, but sent home from Fort Holabird in Maryland after being classified as medically ineligible to serve. It's his legs: A bone cyst in one meant he had broken it twice as a child, and he also had a debilitating knee injury from his time playing high school football.

Patterson, in his typical sardonic way, saw the contradiction immediately. If Patrick was incapable of serving because his leg was too fragile, how had he played high school football to blow his knee out? Patterson said, "I think his explanation is overly creative. Bottom line is he told the AFEES doctor he had a bad knee. Bad knees were an epidemic during the 60's among young draft age men. I remember it well."

Not that this really worsens one of the ugliest primaries in years, but the Democrats must be watching this infighting with a combination of glee and curiosity. After all, any fight that splits the GOP old guard and its radical fringe, long term, must play to their advantage. But there are more immediate concerns, and three different models they must play out.

Firstly, Dewhurst wins on the 27th, and then retains his office in November. Not only will that reverse his sliding political credibility (damaged heavily after his 2012 loss to Cruz in the US Senate race), but it would also remove Patrick, since his current term as senator expires at the beginning of the next session. That could provide some interesting dynamics on the floor next year.

Option two: Patrick wins and becomes lite gov in 2015. There's already been back room word that, if that happens, Senators will change their chamber rules (standard practice at the start of every session) to castrate the office and curtail his most destructive practices before they can start. Patterson laid that out on the table, saying that while most Senators of both parties mistrust Patrick, they're afraid to go after him publicly because he can use his radio shows to go after them. But those shows have no impact behind the closed doors of the committee room. Patterson said, "That is not a recipe for leadership, it's a recipe for pandemonium when the Senate caucus changes their rules to strip the presiding officer of all power except the ceremonial powers enumerated in the Texas constitution."

And don't think that wouldn't happen: It's an open secret in the Legislature that Dewhurst is often an irrelevancy in his own chamber, and, after one particularly contentious debate, was actually told to go home and think about what he did.

And then there's option three. The fight so wings and winds either GOPer that it opens up an avenue of victory for Democratic hopeful Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio. She's got a long way to go, but Democrats are already positing that a Patrick victory in May, especially if these heavy blows keep landing from his own corner, could make life a lot easier come November.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Patrick's term expires in 2017, not 2015.

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Election 2014, Dan Patrick, Jerry Patterson, David Dewhurst, Endorsements, Vietnam War, Ted Cruz, Texas Senate, Legislature, Lieutenant Governor, May 27 2014 Election

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