On repealing the 17th Amendment
David Dewhurst on Monday, January 20th, 2014 in a debate
David Dewhurst went from ‘You betcha, Kemosabe’ to ‘I would not be in favor of’ repeal
"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, 2013 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 cited debates, checked news accounts and reached out to their respective campaigns. (Our check of Patrick’s statements is here.)
When a Statesman reporter asked Oct. 8 whether Dewhurst supported the amendment’s repeal, Dewhurst campaign spokesman Travis Considine replied by email, "That is accurate." His response included Dewhurst’s comment at the Oct. 3 debate held in Houston by the Clear Lake Tea Party, plus web links to news and social media accounts of Cruz, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and prominent Republicans around the country saying they favored repeal.
Rauf wrote in an Oct. 16 Express-News news story:
Asked by Patrick at a Houston-area debate if he supports repealing the amendment, Dewhurst pounced. "You betcha, Kemosabe," he replied. "Right now, many members of Congress, United States senators and United States congressmen, don't have a feeling for what the states need."
According to the Oct. 10 Statesman news blog post, Dewhurst went on to say:
"Believe me, with the absence -- a reversal of the 17th Amendment -- would make all of our United States senators listening daily to the heartbeat of the legislatures and not be passing the laws that cost all of us. Which affect your freedoms and cost you tax dollars that you should never reach into your pocket to pay."
At the Jan. 20 King Street debate in Houston, according to the YouTube video, Dewhurst said, "I would not be in favor of repealing the 17th Amendment if for no other reason than pure practicality. It’s not going to happen."
We reached out to the Dewhurst campaign about his conflicting answers and didn’t hear back.
Between the October and January debates, Dewhurst shifted his declared position on repealing the amendment from "You betcha, Kemosabe" to "I would not be in favor of repealing the 17th Amendment."
We judge that a Full Flop.
FULL FLOP-- A major reversal of position; a complete flip-flop.
UPDATED Feb. 13, 5:07 pm: This story was updated to restore a paragraph defining the 17th Amendment that had been omitted due to an editing error.