Jerry Patterson

Republican Texas lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Dan Patrick speaks during a debate at KERA studios in Dallas, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

It has been said over the course of this year’s statewide campaigns that Texas politics is a full-contact sport, one that draws blood. The recent flare-ups in the Republican primary runoff for lieutenant governor serve as evidence enough of this harsh reality. In the past week, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has been dragged through the mud on a number of different issues involving his personal life. First, a former rival of his — Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson — disclosed that Patrick had previously been admitted to a facility in order to seek treatment for depression. Furthermore, the allegation that Patrick has previously tried to kill himself, specifically by slitting his wrist, has been made in an attempt to damage his credibility among voters.

This editorial board has never been a fan of Patrick’s political positions. But no person, sympathetic politically or not, deserves the unfair onslaught that he has received from his adversaries. A person’s medical records should be kept confidential, and should definitely never be used in a harmful way against a candidate. Like any other illness or ailment, Patrick’s depression is not indicative of a character flaw and is truly irrelevant to the information voters need to make up their minds. To his credit, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Patrick’s opponent in next week’s runoff, has derided the cruel nature of these attacks.

However, we believe that the negative repercussions of these attacks reach much further than simply the lieutenant governor’s primary. We are particularly worried about the consequences of an uptick in negative stigma surrounding mental illness and its treatment. If just one person eschews treatment out of fear of bad publicity, or puts off what could be a promising career in politics because of past struggles with depression, it would be one person too many.

Mental illness is not something to be stigmatized. Like any other type of illness, it requires treatment without judgment or prejudice. If anything, the stable and healthy life that Patrick has lived in the 30 years since his struggles should be a testament to his success, an example that many of these afflictions do not have to carry such a terrible prognosis.

By dredging up these old stories, Patterson (and, indeed, all of Patrick’s most rabid detractors) cheapens the terms of the debate and lowers the bar, so to speak, in politics once again. We certainly think that Texans deserve better.

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

At the Texas Republican Lieutenant Governor Primary debate Feb. 2, four candidates stood against the backdrop of a colossal Texas flag and bandied about phrases like “true conservative,” while roundly lauded the merits of teaching creationism in public schools. If God shaped man in His own image, surely Rick Perry shaped these Republican lieutenant governor candidates in his.

This debate revealed that all of these candidates have remarkably similar views on most issues, including the teaching of creationism as a science, which three of the candidates agreed is acceptable. Only Jerry Patterson, the financial underdog in the race, disagreed, saying it should instead be taught in social studies.  

Some people might take issue with the way the candidates seem to have fashioned their platforms entirely out of divisive cultural issues. Some people might object that the teaching of creationism in schools is explicitly unconstitutional. And some people might even accuse them of naked, shameless, embarrassing, disingenuous pandering to reactionary Republican primary voters. However, I disagree and think we should applaud these brave men for standing up for creationism, despite the fact that 97 percent of scientists support evolution. That kind of blind adherence to politically convenient beliefs is what belongs in science classrooms — not evolution.

I have a modest proposal to ensure the future success of the next generation of young Texans: Drop evolution from the statewide curriculum and immediately adopt creationism as the standard teaching. I believe that David Dewhurst, Jerry Patterson, Todd Staples and Dan Patrick prove that repeating claims to appease ideological primary voters is far more important to a student’s success than understanding science. Understanding evolution isn’t important for a child’s education. Sure, a grasp of evolution and its mechanisms is necessary to develop vaccines, decode the human genome and design more efficient agricultural methods, but it won’t get you the Republican nomination for statewide office. Giving children an education grounded in the scientific method is important, but putting forth religious ideas under the guise of legitimate scientific theory is a more pragmatic skill for our leaders of tomorrow to know. This slate of lieutenant gubernatorial candidates have clearly demonstrated that.

Even The Texas Education Agency, which administers all primary and secondary schools in the state, promises in its mission statement to “prepare [students] for success in the global economy.” While “success” is obviously not an objective metric, certainly anyone would acknowledge that election to high state office represents some degree of professional success. Our students need to be taught to reject critical thinking the way Staples, Dewhurst, Patrick and Patterson have and, instead, publicly say only the things that their most important fundraisers want to hear. 

In fact, I propose that we abandon science-based education all together. Instead of science textbooks, children should be issued a copy of “Atlas Shrugged,” campaign literature from the local Tea Party outfit and an American flag lapel pin. It’s very clear that those things have been more influential in the development of this year’s field of Republican candidates than any textbook.

Matula is a finance junior from Austin.

In this Dec. 12, 2013, file photo, Republican candidates, from left, state Sen. Dan Patrick, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson prepare for a debate at Texas State Technical College, in Waco.

 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

There are four Republican candidates for lieutenant governor this year: incumbent David Dewhurst, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and state Sen. Dan Patrick. With all four vying to win the Republican primary — a contest determined by the just over 10 percent of voters, many of them passionate conservatives — the candidates have unsurprisingly been taking political positions further and further to the right.

Most of the lieutenant governor’s powers involve the position’s role as the president of the Texas Senate. The lieutenant governor presides over the chamber, names the chairmen of the ever-powerful committees and helps to craft the rules at the beginning of each session. Accordingly, many of the far-right ideas propagated by these candidates will involve changing the way the Senate works and runs. And in Texas, where the state Senate features a Democratic Party that is in the minority and desperate to use every dilatory maneuver at its disposal, this could mean big changes to the rules in the legislative process that currently benefit the minority. 

According to the lieutenant governor hopefuls, the most odious abuse of power from Democrats in the Senate stems from the use of the dreaded two-thirds rule. The idea is actually quite simple: A supermajority of the Senate — 21 of the 31 senators — must agree on a bill before it is brought to the floor. The rule, which originated when Democrats held all 31 seats in the Senate, is designed to protect minority interests and viewpoints in the deliberative body. Despite the fact that Dewhurst was strongly in favor of this parliamentary hurdle earlier in his lieutenant governorship, the policy’s fate now looks much more uncertain, no matter which Republican candidate takes the reins. But to remove it would eliminate some sacred safeguards in our system of checks and balances, which protect both geographical and political minority interests.

Of course, if you ask any of the Republicans running for lieutenant governor, they will not admit that they want to vanquish this protection of minority interests. Patrick, in a push that has been affirmed by the other candidates, said he believes 60 percent should be the new threshold. The percentage conveniently works out to 19 senators, the exact number of members in the Senate Republican caucus. In other words, make no mistake: Lowering the threshold by even those two votes would have the capacity to completely eliminate any semblance of power or relevance that the Senate Democratic caucus may currently have. 

Despite these concerns, the big pushback against the two-thirds rule fails to take into consideration the myriad other functions of the policy besides blocking controversial red vs. blue bills. Historically, the rule was designed to protect rural interests against those of urban concerns. So with approximately 19 senators hailing from the cities and suburbs today, changing the two-thirds rule may disadvantage not only Democrats, but also rural areas. 

“Democrats and urban Republicans will team up,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and dean of the upper chamber. “Mark my words, we will run this state together.” 

This view has been reaffirmed by other Democratic state senators, who appear rather confident that a change in the rules would foster positive benefits for them in addition to the obvious drawbacks. Simply put, while the more controversial social issues come up every once in a while, the vast majority of the Legislature’s business is mundane, day-to-day financial measures that split legislators more geographically than politically. Especially when it comes to important monetary choices on water and transportation, an urban coalition would have the capacity to steamroll over the rural minority.

When I mentioned this to Dewhurst, he simply said, “I don’t want to see anyone get steamrolled,” but avoided being specific as to how that would be avoided. Dewhurst, of course, is a Houstonian, as are Patterson and Patrick. Dewhurst was adamant that this possible harm to rural areas or other minority interests would all be worth it because the Democrats are unreasonably stubborn in their demands, “not even coming to the table.”

Whitmire would definitely disagree with this assessment. He spoke of Democrats and Republicans coming together to reform gun laws, appeasing conservative demands while still placating liberal concerns. Specifically pertaining to UT students, in the compromise he claims credit for, students may now bring their handguns to campus in their locked cars, while a more ambitious proposal to allow concealed carry on campus was tabled. 

“The system worked,” Whitmire said. “And Republicans were content with what we accomplished, so ‘campus carry’ was not resurrected in a special session.”

The two-thirds rule is an important tradition with honorable motives in our state Senate. It protects both political and geographical minorities, and it encourages collaboration and bipartisanship. The rule should not be eliminated or diminished, no matter the desires of the current Republican leadership.

Horwitz is a government junior from Houston. Follow Horwitz on Twitter @NmHorwitz.

Horns Up: Why would the UN want the Alamo, anyway?

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson had the correct reaction to the recent outbreak of Internet indignation over the prospect that the United Nations might declare the Alamo a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some conservative commentators have frantically accused the UN of trying to “take over” the ill-fated rebel fortress from the Texas Revolution. The UN’s policies “follow Santa Ana’s [sic] dictatorial rule rather than the values the Alamo defenders died for,” one website, infowars.com, wailed. “Bureaucrats from China or France could oversee and influence the Alamo’s operation.” 

“Horse hockey,” declared Patterson in response to the backlash. “It’s a tourism designation indicating it’s a place of historic significance. That is all.”

 

Horns Down: Perry laments drama, lacks any self-awareness

Gov. Rick Perry says he’s had enough of a House special committee on transparency’s investigation of UT System Regent Wallace Hall. According to the Texas Tribune on Wednesday, Perry called the heat on Hall “extraordinary political theater.” We find it rich that a legislative committee is being accused of theatrics by a man who goes barnstorming around the country with doom-and-gloom ads about their states’ real or imagined economic turmoil and who in March urged his regents to stand up to the “charlatans and peacocks” criticizing them at the time. Go ahead, Perry. Defend your appointee, but don’t be surprised if your past drama ends up taking center stage instead.