In 1998, based on his leadership and experience in the military, the private sector, and as RPT finance chair, David Dewhurst decided he would seek the office of Texas Land Commissioner. Texas, at the time still had a very competitive electorate, and there was no guarantee that Dewhurst would win in his first attempt at elected office. He campaigned on the need for fiscal reform within the General Land Office, against the amount of federal government overreach in state land use, and the importance environment land stewardship.
During the campaign, Dewhurst embarked on a statewide 115 city bus tour to introduce himself to voters. He was able to successful use his position as an outsider and successful businessman as the person best able to reform the General Land Office. Dewhurst was elected with a little over 57% percent of the vote over State Rep. Richard Raymond and garnered more votes in the 1998 election than candidates Rick Perry, Carole Keeton Rylander, and John Cornyn.
Leading up to the 2002 elections, Land Commissioner David Dewhurst announced his intentions to run for Lieutenant Governor of Texas. As President of the Texas, the office of Lt. Governor is considered by many to be the most powerful elected office in Texas. Commissioner Dewhurst relied on his success in business and in pushing his reforms within the General Land Office. Dewhurst had cut the agency’s budget by 25%, firmly established greater veteran benefits, and further improved the quality of state owned land including Texas beaches.
His opponent was former Comptroller John Sharp, who was running for Lt. Governor for the second time as he was narrowly defeated in 1998. The state budget shortfall was expected to be anywhere from five to twelve billion dollars and Commissioner Dewhurst made it very clear from the beginning that any raising of taxes and/or the creation of a state income tax was off the table, something his opponent would not promise. The major issues included reform of homeowner’s insurance and tort reform, the modernization of state agencies and education reform.
After a bruising campaign and millions of dollars spent, Commissioner Dewhurst prevailed with over 51% of the vote to Comptroller Sharp’s 46% of the vote. He was only the second Republican elected to serve as Lieutenant Governor since Reconstruction.
After two successful sessions and several special sessions on redistricting and school finance, Lt. Governor Dewhurst announced his intention to run for re-election as Lieutenant Governor. Dewhurst campaigned upon tort reform, balancing the budget, and continuing conservative policies for Texas. His opponent was Maria Luisa Alvarado, a fellow Air Force veteran and research analyst. In spite of his opponent being unknown and underfunded, Dewhurst took nothing for granted and campaigned across the state on his promotion of “Jessica’s Law” to enact stronger sentences on convicted sex offenders as part of his “Texas Children First” plan for the 2007 legislative session.
Upon his victory he was quoted as saying, “"What a difference four years makes," Dewhurst told supporters in Austin. "I can remember four years ago it was a hard fought victory. But tonight's overwhelming victory shows what a difference four years of conservative Republican leadership in Texas can make.”
Despite rumors to the contrary, in the fall of 2009, and leading up to the 2010 election cycle, Lt. Governor Dewhurst announced that he would be running for a third term as Lieutenant Governor.
His opponent was Linda Chavez-Thompson, who had previously served as executive vice president for the AFL-CIO and as vice chairwoman for the Democratic National Committee. Similar to the 2006 race, Dewhurst still campaigned statewide for re-election and was able to campaign on passing what was at the time the largest tax cut in state history, the ability of Texas to withstand the nationwide recession, and the passage of several bill which were pro-life and pro-family.
On July 18, 2011, Dewhurst addressed his supporters in an online video on his campaign website, announcing his candidacy for the vacant U.S. Senate seat for the Republican nomination. His rivals included former Mayor of Dallas Tom Leppert, ESPN college football analyst Craig James and former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz, the eventual nominee.
After a year-long campaign for the Republican nomination, Dewhurst lost to Cruz in a run-off on July 31, 2012. Cruz then won the seat in the general election against Democrat Paul Sadler of Henderson.
Dewhurst and Patrick faced each other in the May 27 runoff election for Lieutenant Governor. The winner meets the Democrat state Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, who is the Democratic nominee for the lieutenant governorship. On May 27, 2014, Patrick easily defeated Dewhurst in a landslide: 65% to 35%.
Patterson said after state Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth (who was the Democratic nominee for Governor) filibustered the bill to ban late-term abortions in Texas that Dewhurst has "lost his grip on the reins of the Senate". Patrick called for new leadership in the chamber.
Polling by the University of Texas at Austin and The Texas Tribune had showed Dewhurst leading his opponents in the primary with 26 percent of the vote, to Patrick's 13 percent, Patterson's 10 percent and Staples' 5 percent. At the time, 46 percent of voters were reported as undecided.
Prior to the runoff election against Patrick, Dewhurst joined Governor Rick Perry in calling for a "surge operation" beginning September 1, 2014, of aircraft and boats on the Mexican border to thwart smuggling and crimes by the drug cartel. House Speaker Joe Straus eventually committed to the surge and is currently underway, affirming Dewhurst's claim from an earlier debate with Patrick, in which he claimed to have Straus' support for the coming surge. The Texas Department of Public Safety still retains the authority to send troopers and equipment to the border without approval from the legislature if the director sees fit to do so.
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