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Patterson hopes to finally beat Dewhurst for It. governor

East Bernard Express of East Bernard, Texas

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Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson gets a re-match with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst this year. Dewhurst is running for re-election, and Patterson, who lost to Dewhurst in the 1998 land commissioner race, is trying to replace him as the Texas Senate's presiding officer.

And, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman is retiring after his second two-year term — separated by 16 years — to make a probably hapless effort to win the Republican nomination away from senior U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Back in mid-1997, then-state Sen. Jerry Patterson announced plans to run for land commissioner in 1998. Incumbent Democrat Garry Mauro was leaving to run for governor.

But almost half a year later, Houston businessman Dewhurst announced in mid-December for the job. Dewhurst had more than $200 million from selling an energy company, and wanted to hold public office - preferably senator or governor.

Since both those jobs had incumbents, Dewhurst explored running for, lieutenant governor. Incumbent Democrat Bob Bullock was retiring from the job after eight years.

But then-Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry, a pilot, had been flying around the state for years, campaigning to run for higher office.

Dewhurst reportedly told Perry he'd bury him with money. Perry reportedly said give it a try, Big Boy.

Dewhurst decided on a vacancy lower down the political totem pole. He picked the land office. In addition to managing state lands, it helps funnel oil and gas royalties into the Permanent School Fund, and helps administer a veterans loan program. Dewhurst had been in the energy business and was an Air Force veteran. It fit.

Patterson was author of Texas's right-to-carry concealed handgun legislation in 1995, and in 1997 of a bill allowing motorcyclists over 18 to go helmetless. He announced for land commissioner on June 26, 1997.

Houston businessman Tim Turner had already announced for the GOP primary. Secretary of State Tony Garza and Don Loucks, a former aide to then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Surfside, and two county judges, were also said to be considering the race.

Garza even resigned as secretary of state to declare his candidacy for land commissioner. But that was before Dewhurst shifted his sights, and the prospect of his deep pockets, from lieutenant governor to land commissioner.

Opponents accused Dewhurst of trying to buy the election. Dewhurst responded, "I don't think you can buy elections."

But Garza did. He looked things over, and opted instead for the railroad commission.

"I blinked," Garza said candidly.

Already in that race was Stockman. His first term in congress had lasted two years, ended in late 1996 by Democrat Nick Lampson.

By the time the filing deadline rolled around in 1998, most would-be land office candidates, facing Dewhurst's big bucks, turned into wouldn't-be's.

Only Patterson and Loucks stayed to fight Dewhurst. Patterson won almost every newspaper endorsement. But Dewhurst and his money won the election — 51.2 percent to Patterson's 41.7 percent. Loucks got 7.1 percent.

In the 1998 railroad commission contest, Garza remembered the poor reception of some Hispanic-surname candidates in Republican primaries — like himself.

In 1994, Garza had run for attorney general, with the support of Republican governor candidate George W. Bush.

Didn't matter; Garza finished fourth of four candidates, with 17.7 percent against three Anglos, each in the mid or upper 20s.

But, one-on-one with Stockman, Garza, who'd served as secretary of state since the attorney general race, got 53.1 percent to Stockman's 46.85.

Patterson, after his 1998 loss, figured Dewhurst wanted the land commissioner's post as a stepping stone, and kept campaigning. Dewhurst proved him right by announcing for lieutenant governor.

In the 2002 GOP land commissioner primary, Patterson beat former state Rep. Kenn George of Dallas with 56.5 percent.

In the 2002 general election — the first after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York — Republican nominees breezed to victory. Patterson got 53.2 percent over Democratic state Sen. David Bernsen of Beaumont, with 41.5 percent. Libertarian and Green Party candidates got the rest.

The lowest statewide Republican winner was Dewhurst for lieutenant governor. He got 51.8 percent against popular Democratic Comptroller John Sharp's 46.0 percent.

Now, 16 years later, Patterson finally gets his second shot at Dewhurst — who's still rich, but roughed up by losing the U.S. Senate primary in 2012 to now-Sen. Ted Cruz.

The two other GOP candidates for lieutenant governor

— state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples

— may keep Patterson from even getting in a runoff. But at least, he gets a shot.

And, Stockman is back to haunt Comyn — which may wind up as a blessing to the senator. More about that soon. Wendy Davis rumor: A source says the Democratic governor candidate may go into 2014 with more than $10 million in her campaign account.

Contact Dave McNeely at or 512-458-2963.

Copyright 2014 East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 2, 2014

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