KERRVILLE, Texas (AP) — Now considered an underdog to keep his job, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst went on a verbal attack Friday, accusing his Republican runoff rival state Sen. Dan Patrick of lying about how much money Texas has spent securing its border with Mexico and failing to keep his promise to eradicate a much-maligned online school curriculum system.
Patrick responded that Dewhurst only cared about border security as a campaign issue and failed to push bills most important to conservative activists through the Republican-controlled state Legislature.
The sometimes-tense exchanges came at a forum before the Republican Women of Kerr County in Kerrville, about 60 miles northwest of San Antonio. The candidates spent more time tearing into each other than answering questions.
Dewhurst boasted that over the past 30 days, he has championed a "permanent surge" along the state's border with Mexico, spending millions to dramatically increase state troopers, boats and planes there. He said he wants to continue doing so over the long term and "send the bill to Barack Obama."
Patrick dismissed the "permanent surge" as a campaign ploy. He said Dewhurst, who oversees the state Senate, has refused to appropriate sufficient funds to secure the border.
"Senator, you are either incapable of reading a budget or you are not telling the truth again," Dewhurst said.
"I know how to read a budget. He's put me on finance two sessions in a row because he has confidence in me," Patrick shot back, referring to Dewhurst's picking him to serve on the Senate Finance Committee.
Patrick beat Dewhurst by 13 percentage points in the March 4 Republican primary and carried Kerr County, though he failed to capture a majority in a field featuring four candidates.
Patrick is now the favorite to secure the party's nomination during a runoff May 27 and become lieutenant governor after November's general election — a Democrat hasn't won statewide office in Texas in 20 years.
Dewhurst and Patrick appeared together for numerous debates before the initial primary election, but Friday was just the second time they've been in the same room since then.
Dewhurst stayed on the attack on the issue of the Internet-based curriculum system known as CSCOPE. The system contains model lesson plans to make it easier for teachers to adhere to strict state rules about what gets taught.
After some conservatives complained that the suggested lessons promoted anti-American values, Patrick promised to use his post as chairman of the Senate Education Committee to wipe out CSCOPE. His efforts, though, only succeeded in moving CSCOPE to the public domain, where any school district statewide can continue to use it.
Dewhurst accused Patrick of "grandstanding" rather than accomplishing much, adding: "One of my biggest disappointments is his lack of moving forward on CSCOPE."
The pair agreed on some issues. Both think the Texas Senate should scrap a long-standing convention requiring a two-thirds vote from senators to bring legislation to the floor, and that Democrats should be assigned to head fewer committees. Patrick, though, said Dewhurst should have done both things by now.