Dan Patrick and Leticia Van de Putte debated Monday night in Austin. Photo via Texas Tribune livestream.
State sens. Leticia Van de Putte and Dan Patrick squared off Monday night during their first and only debate as candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor, sparring over issues like public education funding, the Texas DREAM Act, immigration, women’s health, and marriage equality, to name a few.
While not as stiff as the first debate between gubernatorial candidates Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Republican nominee state Attorney General Greg Abbott, the exchange was tightly structured, with each senator given two minutes to respond to a question, and then 90 seconds for rebuttal. Van de Putte played close to the center, channeling her tough but assertive tone when addressing her opponent, while Patrick brought back some of his Republican primary-style rhetoric, laced with just enough condescension to make your skin crawl and just enough liberal-bashing to make his base go wild.
After going around a few times on property and sales tax, the two squared off on the Texas DREAM Act, which allows undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition at Texas public universities and has historically had bipartisan support. Patrick, who referenced his debate earlier this year with former Mayor Julian Castro, seemed to forget what the law actually does and instead referenced admission into a public university rather than tuition rate.
“My opponent has not read the bill,” Van de Putte responded. “This is not about admission, this is about what you pay in tuition...this we know is important for the workforce.”
Patrick wasted no time boasting his anti-abortion record, touting the pre-abortion sonogram bill that he passed during the 2011 legislative session. Oh, and Patrick had something to say about those of us who were at the Capitol last year during Davis’ hours-long filibuster against Texas’ omnibus abortion bill.
“I was sad to see my opponent cheering on the anarchists who took control of the Capitol that night,” he said, also saying at one point that “one way you respect women is to protect little girls is in the womb.”
Van de Putte reiterated that the choice to have an abortion is between a woman, her doctor, and her family, and highlighted Patrick’s record of disrespecting women, including his opposition to an exception for women who have experienced rape or incest in Texas’ abortion law banning the procedure after 20 weeks.
“I want zero abortions,” she said. “But the way you do that is not by making the services and the access almost non-existent, you do that by making it unnecessary in the first place. Unlike my opponent, I have fought for services so that women can get the family planning that they need,” she said. “He doesn’t think it’s a problem that rape kits go untested on the shelf...he’s also said for women that if you get paid less than a man for the same job, then that’s not a problem either.”
Patrick also touted his opposition for same-sex marriage, citing numbers from 2005 when the constitutional amendment was first passed by voters, but more recent polling data shows that support for same-sex marriage is actually increasing in Texas.
“People’s attitudes are changing,” Van de Putte said in her response. “What was voted on back then I don’t think would be the same results now
our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are in our workforce and in our families, they deserve full equality.”
Patrick also brought back some questionable rhetoric when it comes to immigration, saying that "immigrants often carry invisible diseases," and accusing Van de Putte of wanting to turn Texas into California. Van de Putte called Patrick out on his votes to cut public education funding by billions of dollars, as well as his continued refusal to expand Medicaid, which would provide health insurance for tens of thousands of veterans and low-income adults.
Watch the one-hour long debate here, courtesy of the Texas Tribune.