Van de Putte, Patrick Square Off in Only Lt. Gov. Debate

Patrick sticks to right-wing rhetoric; says one debate enough

Rather than temper his controversial rhetoric, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, reinforced extremist platform points when it came to education, health care, immigration, reproductive rights and marriage equality during Monday evening’s lieutenant governor debate against state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

Patrick made no bones about supporting massive cuts to Texas public education and downplayed their impact on schools and students. Despite an estimated 11,000 teachers losing jobs as a result of the 2011 Republican-led Legislature’s $5 billion in slashes to the state’s school system, Patrick defended the decision, arguing the cuts prevented a tax increase: “Your children weren’t shorted,” he said. Van de Putte shot back, “We can decide to cut or we can decide to invest; […] Dan, you need a math lesson.”

An opponent of the Texas DREAM Act, bipartisan legislation authored by Van de Putte, Patrick reiterated his opposition to allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition if they meet certain qualifications, calling it a “question of fairness.” Echoing his harsh rhetoric about border immigration, Patrick again sought to paint immigrants as disease-ridden: “Immigrants oftentimes carry invisible diseases,” he said. And showing his alarmist conservative talk radio show roots, Patrick dropped a reference to the (unsubstantiated and thoroughly debunked by the Pentagon) threat of ISIS along the Texas-Mexico border.

Predictably, Patrick chastised Van de Putte for supporting "Obamacare," while Van de Putte called Patrick out for getting behind Gov. Rick Perry’s choice to reject a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which has left more than a million low-income (mostly Latino) Texans uninsured, including thousands of veterans and their spouses. “You just got to like the citizens in your state more than you dislike the federal government,” said Van de Putte.

Patrick unabashedly displayed his reproductive rights radicalism, as well, calling the swarm of citizen-activist protestors who gathered at the Capitol last summer against Texas abortion law, HB 2, “anarchists” and criticized Van de Putte for “cheering” with them in opposition to the restrictive law. Author of the state’s pre-abortion sonogram law and medication abortion restrictions found in HB 2, Patrick reaffirmed his stance that abortions should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest. A women’s health and family planning advocate, Van de Putte slammed Patrick for not respecting women and charged the Legislature with finding solutions to actually prevent abortion, such as adequately funding contraceptive services.

Patrick, a Tea Party favorite, also called for a tax plan that would reduce property taxes and increase sales tax. “To burden Texas businesses and families with a sales tax increase isn’t being pro-business,” said Van de Putte.

Not a friend of the LGBT community, Patrick made clear he doesn’t agree with marriage equality. “Our state has spoken,” he said in reference to a 2005 state referendum outlawing same-sex marriages. “Marriage should be between a man and a woman.” In contrast, Van de Putte said all Texans deserve full equity and that the vote would likely reflect a more progressive outlook if taken today. She said she hopes the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality and overturns Texas’ ban.

The Monday evening event, held at KLRU-TV studios and moderated by Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey, marks the first and only debate scheduled between the two candidates. While the Van de Putte campaign requested five debates with Patrick, the Houston state senator agreed to only one opportunity to square off with his Democratic opponent for a shot at one of the most powerful statewide positions. Newsdesk asked Patrick why he refused the four debates; he pointed to the several debates he participated in during the Republican primary and said the voters are already familiar with his views.

“People know my position very well, plus I had 35 or so forums or debates that weren’t televised,” he said. “And our gubernatorial candidates are having two, so one is appropriate. And you know, if we had another one next week, we’d have the same questions and the same answers.” When pressed by another reporter, Patrick insisted, “I think that one debate was what was needed.”

Van de Putte called Patrick’s refusal to engage in more than this week’s debate “disrespectful” to Texas voters. “I can only imagine he wants to hide out until the election is over,” she said.

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November 2014 Election, Lt Gov Race, November 2014 Elections

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