Acting to quash speculation that he had his eye on the Governor’s Mansion, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Monday that he will run for re-election in 2018.
Patrick said he will never run for governor as long as the position is occupied by “my friend, my ally, my conservative partner, Greg Abbott” — though he added that he would reconsider his options if Abbott vacated the office.
Patrick said he made the unusually early re-election announcement to avoid having questions about his future, raised recently in reports by several media outlets, become a distraction during the legislative session that begins Tuesday.
“Let me put this to bed once and for all. I am not running against Greg Abbott, not in ’18, not ever,” he said at a news conference at Republican Party of Texas headquarters in downtown Austin. “Put it in cement.”
To underscore his point, Patrick jumped the gun by endorsing Abbott — acknowledging that the governor has not yet announced his bid for a second term, “but when he does, I want to be the first to endorse him.” Patrick also said his campaign will soon report having a robust $13.6 million on hand for the lieutenant governor’s race after raising almost $5 million in the last half of 2016.
Patrick also shot down speculation that he was interested in replacing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, or in taking a position in the Trump administration.
“I want these stories to stop,” Patrick said. “All of that has been nothing more than someone’s pipe dream, some speculation based on no facts.”
Patrick made a similar announcement toward the end of the 2015 legislative session, gathering reporters around him to say that he was not interested in challenging Abbott. His reason then was the same — to end speculation that he was considering taking a primary shot at Abbott.
“What would be the point?” Patrick said Monday. “I like what I do.”
Several Republicans welcomed Patrick’s news, but Matt Angle, director of the pro-Democratic Party Lone Star Project, called Patrick’s statement “more a threat against Texans than an announcement of his plans.”
“Patrick has honed self-promotion and hateful rhetoric to the sharpest edge, but when it comes to strong public schools, good jobs with good pay, or representing the state of Texas with dignity and honor, he can’t cut it at all,” Angle said.
After eight years as a Republican senator from Houston, Patrick was sworn in as lieutenant governor in 2015 after handily defeating incumbent David Dewhurst in the 2014 GOP primary runoff.
In addition to introducing punctuality to the Senate chamber, Patrick charted a more aggressively conservative course than Dewhurst, who was rather conservative himself. Highlights of his first session leading the Senate, according to Patrick, included legislation to add $800 million for border security, create A to F ratings for each school and efforts to reduce property taxes.
Patrick has raised the stakes for the coming session, designating 25 priorities laden with conservative measures, including transgender bathrooms, “sanctuary cities,” school choice, abortion regulations and ending the fee for gun licenses.