Citing the need for "authentic conservative leadership" in Texas, state Sen. Dan Patrick announced on Thursday that he would run for lieutenant governor against incumbent David Dewhurst.
"Today begins roughly 18 months of hard work," said Patrick, a Houston Republican who was joined by his wife at the news conference. "I think the people in Texas sense that it is a time for change. 2014 is going to be a change election."
Patrick came out swinging against current GOP leadership, placing the blame at their feet for the failure to pass omnibus abortion legislation during the recently ended special session. Armed with a list of endorsements from county party officials affiliated with Tea Party groups and the results of a recent internal poll, Patrick also emphasized his widespread support in the Houston area.
"We are going to win Harris County. We are going to win Montgomery County," he said.
Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis' Tuesday filibuster of an abortion bill, which Patrick cited as an example of why voters should put someone new in office, was a backdrop to many of his comments.
"It was pretty clear to the world who was watching that it happened because of a lack of leadership," said Patrick. "We allowed someone to stand on the floor for 12 hours and give one side of the story."
As chairman of the Senate's Education Committee, Patrick said Thursday he had learned how translate diverging views into good policy and build consensus around controversial topics. Education reform, he said, should be as important a priority for the state as border security. He helped pass two major education bills this session, including an expansion of the state's charter school system.
Patrick has a history of tense relations with the leader of the Senate who will now be his opponent. During the 2011 session, Patrick slammed Dewhurst for holding up his bill that would have prohibited "invasive searches" by Transportation Security Administration officials. But the pair appeared to have made amends when Patrick endorsed and campaigned vigorously for Dewhurst in his failed U.S. Senate race against Ted Cruz.
When Dewhurst appointed Patrick as the chairman of the education committee ahead of the 2013 legislative session, it was widely taken as a sign that Patrick had put his ambitions for lieutenant governor on hold.
Dewhurst is not the only Republican colleague with whom Patrick strained his relationship with during the recently concluded legislative session. In a move that allied him with Tea Party critics of state spending, Patrick voted against the state budget near the end of the session. But at a recent event hosted by The Texas Tribune, Patrick said his vote was due to the lack of funding in the budget for some public education programs — a statement that led Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, to accuse him of misleading the public.
In challenging Dewhurst, Patrick joins two other state elected officials, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.