AUSTIN They're four of the biggest names in the Texas GOP, and one will represent the party this November in the race for lieutenant governor.
'Ten years ago, y'all hired me to help lead this state,' incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R-Texas) told business interests at an Austin forum earlier this month.
Dewhurst has said if he is reelected, his next term will be his last. With the coming election guaranteed to bring many new faces in the highest levels of Texas government, Dewhurst is making his experience a selling point.
'They're all smart guys, but it takes time to learn any complex new job, and I've been doing it for a number of years,' Dewhurst told WFAA's sister station KVUE. 'But I'm only asking for people to vote for me if they think I'm the most qualified, if they think I'm the most conservative [and] if they realize I know how to grow economies in good economic times and bad economic times.'
Portraying himself as a border hawk, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples touts a six-point plan to secure the border as part of his broader 'Contract with Texans.' Staples has long advocated increased border security and employing more troops and technology in order to accomplish that objective.
'I'm going to win it, because I have the most consistent conservative record both in business and in public service of doing what I said I would do,' said Staples, who alluded to the incumbent's lengthy tenure in emphasizing he would not use the office to create a 'fiefdom.'
'If you want a path to see poverty, show me a single mom,' state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) told business interests at the same forum.
Though campaign ads tout Patrick's tough stance on immigration and border security, the Houston senator is best known for his impassioned defense of socially conservative issues. Using the issue of single mothers to emphasize the economic importance of the family unit, Patrick hopes to make the case social conservatism is also good for business.
'There are many business leaders in tea parties. There are great moms in tea parties who are taking care of their families,' said Patrick. 'You ask me to define a tea party person: A patriot who loves this state, who loves this country, who understands we have to govern, but they want to be sure government governs responsibly.'
'There's only one who had the cojones, since we're talking about Spanish right now,' Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said while describing to business interests his successful campaign to incorporate a guest worker program dubbed the 'Texas Solution' into the state's party platform.
Mounting a new campaign to reach out to Hispanic voters -- whom he terms 'Tejanos' because of the historic important of Mexican-Americans in Texas -- Patterson argues his focus is more practical than political.
'I think they're too focused too much on cliches, bumper stickers and short two- or three-word phrases to describe very detailed issues,' Patterson told KVUE.
The four candidates' first test will be in the March 4 state primary. If no one candidate emerges with more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote winners will proceed to a runoff. The winner will face likely Democratic nominee state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) in the November general election.
Monday's debate hosted by Dallas public television station KERA-TV begins at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast live on local PBS stations and on WFAA.com.