There can be no misunderstanding — zero, none — of what state Sen. Dan Patrick wants to do to the Texas Senate if Texans elect him lieutenant governor next month.
He wants to destroy the bipartisan atmosphere that often has helped govern the state’s upper legislative chamber. That effort, in my view, would be a bad thing for Texas.
Texas Tribune editor in chief Evan Smith’s interview with Patrick revealed the senator’s plans quite clearly.
Patrick is running against the incumbent, David Dewhurst, as well as against Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples in a crowded Republican primary. I cannot predict who will win this contest, but it’s looking more and more as though Dewhurst is among the underdogs in the fight for the man’s own seat.
Patrick recently chastised Dewhurst for selecting six Democrats to chair the Senate’s 18 committees, which is roughly proportional to the number of Democrats serving in the Senate. The count today is 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Dewhurst, therefore, has doled out chairmanships fairly, correct? Not so, says Patrick, R-Houston, who told Smith he might place, oh, maybe two Democrats in chairmanships … or he may select none for the 2015 Legislature.
Dewhurst, to his discredit, failed to fight back against that criticism, suggesting in a gutless response instead that the Democrats he placed in chairmanships led committees of little legislative consequence.
The lieutenant governor, whether it was Dewhurst, or Rick Perry before him, or Bob Bullock or Bill Hobby, all strived to maintain a semblance of collegiality and bipartisanship in the Senate, over which the lieutenant governor presides. That’s why they cross party lines to place senators from the “other” party in key leadership roles. Dewhurst and Perry, both Republicans, have been faithful to that tradition, as were Bullock and Hobby, two Democrats.
That spirit also has produced the two-thirds rule, which requires any bill to have at least 21 votes before it is decided by a full Senate vote. Many Republican senators, such as Kel Seliger of Amarillo, have said they support the two-thirds rule.
Patrick does not appear to have any notion of preserving that collegial spirit in the Senate.
For my money, that’s one key reason why he shouldn’t be elected lieutenant governor of Texas.