Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Full flops for Dewhurst, Patrick on repealing a constitutional amendment

Dan Patrick and David Dewhurst drew Full Flops for their changed positions on the constitutional provision that requires senators to be directly elected by the people.
Dan Patrick and David Dewhurst drew Full Flops for their changed positions on the constitutional provision that requires senators to be directly elected by the people.

"Flip flop," begins a Jan. 22, 2014, news blog entry from the San Antonio Express-News.

"That’s exactly what Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick, both trying to capture the tea party vote in the Republican primary, did earlier this week when posed a question about repealing the 17th Amendment."

The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1913, did away with state legislatures electing U.S. senators and handed that power directly to the people. It begins, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote."

At the time, the 17th Amendment was seen as a move away from corruption and toward purer democracy, according to an Oct. 10, 2013, Austin American-Statesman news blog post and an Oct. 16 Statesman news story. But tea party activists, particularly in Texas, describe it as a mistake that reduced state power by undoing an intended balance between U.S. representatives elected locally by the people and U.S. senators more accountable to state legislators.

Another Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Texas land commissioner Jerry Patterson, said in a Waco Tribune-Herald interview published Feb. 2 and in subsequent emails to us that Patrick and Dewhurst each said in an Oct. 3 debate that he favored repeal, then changed his tune at a Jan. 20 King Street Patriots debate.

Patterson and another GOP candidate, Texas agriculture commissioner Todd Staples, who weren’t asked about repeal at the October debate, each said at the later debate that he opposes repealing the amendment, according to a YouTube video that King Street spokesman Logan Churchwell told us by phone accurately presented the candidates’ responses.

To gauge whether Dewhurst and Patrick flip-flopped, we reviewed the debates, checked news accounts and reached out to their respective campaigns.

Dig into how we reached our Full Flop ratings in the articles posted above.