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By W. Gardner Selby January 31, 2014

David Dewhurst appears to be first lieutenant governor with state security detail, but he's said he initially declined it

Todd Staples, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Texas, charged incumbent David Dewhurst, standing to his left, with a self-oriented achievement.

At a Jan. 27, 2014, debate, hosted by KERA-TV, Channel 13 in Dallas, Staples, the state agriculture commissioner, said: "I wish the lieutenant governor was more focused on what we’re spending in public schools rather than... being the first lieutenant governor in history to have a personal security detail. I would be more worried about what’s going on in the security of our schools rather than having a personal security detail that drives you from place to place and sweeps rooms before you go in."

Is Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor since 2003, making history with a security phalanx?

Law enforcement agency confirms

To our inquiry, Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, confirmed  that Dewhurst is the first lieutenant governor to have a state security detail. Asked if the detail is provided full time or on an as-needed basis, Vinger said the agency does not discuss security specifics.

Generally, Vinger told us by email, the DPS "is committed to protecting any state official that may be under threat conditions, especially considering that the threat environment has changed dramatically over the last decade," Vinger said. "The Texas Government Code, Section 411.002(a) charges DPS with enforcing the laws protecting public safety and providing for the prevention and detection of crime.

"This includes any threat or attempt to physically harm any state official," Vinger wrote. "The department deploys resources to detect and prevent such an act from occurring. Protecting the governor, lieutenant governor," Texas House "speaker, attorney general and other state officials is a critical mission of the department, and DPS has a responsibility to perform these and other security related missions, such as protecting the state Capitol."

Dewhurst: 'I didn't request protection'

Word of officials beyond Gov. Rick Perry getting greater security attention surfaced in early 2011, a year after a man fired shots on the south steps of the Texas Capitol before getting tackled by state troopers, according to a Jan. 21, 2010, Associated Press news story.

On Jan. 12, 2011, a news story in the Dallas Morning News called Dewhurst the "first Texas lieutenant governor to have a security detail, though governors have had them for years."

But the story quoted an unidentified spokesman for Dewhurst saying that Dewhurst did not request the security.

In a political analysis published Jan. 14, 2011, Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune noted that Capitol security had been beefed up the year before in various ways including the placement of metal detectors at main entrances.

An Austin American-Statesman news story published that day quoted Dewhurst as saying that the DPS "came to me months ago and recommended security, but I have resisted. In December, because of some credible threats, I agreed to it when I am in public places, public functions -- not all the time." Dewhurst did not elaborate on the threats. Dewhurst further said that his added security included an occasional DPS detail, driver and a state vehicle, a black SUV that had been in his parking spot outside the Capitol much of the week.

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The story further said that according to Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus and Attorney General Greg Abbott had also been provided state guards. To our telephone inquiries, Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland said Abbott has a security detail, while Straus spokeswoman Erin Daly said Straus has not acceded to personal guards, though security was stepped up around the House in early 2011 in reaction to outside threats.

Staples’ campaign spokesman, Bryan Black, told us by email that Staples would decline such protection. Staples "keeps his protection in his boot," Black said, which we took as a reference to a firearm.

Security teams for past lieutenant governors?

And what of previous lieutenant governors?

Black said Staples, a former state senator, has known four lieutenant governors dating back to the late Bob Bullock, who left the office more than a decade ago. Dewhurst, Black said, "is the only one of the four who has utilized a full-time taxpayer-funded security detail. We have personally observed this detail," Black said.

A state spokesman for Dewhurst, Andrew Barlow, reiterated what Dewhurst said in 2011, also saying that the "expanded security detail is just one of the" DPS’s "many changes in security protocol in the post-9/11 era, including restricted Capitol driveway access, security gates at Capitol parking garages and metal detectors at Capitol entrances."

By phone, several Dewhurst predecessors told us they did not have security contingents.

Bill Hobby, who held the gavel-wielding job from 1973 into 1991, told us he never had a detail. Former state Sen. Bill Ratliff said the same per his service as acting lieutenant governor from late 2000 through 2002. Ratliff added that Bullock, lieutenant governor from 1991 through 1998, "almost certainly" never had a security detail. Sen. Rodney Ellis, the Houston Democrat who briefly served in the post after Perry resigned to become governor in 2000, did not have a security detail, his spokesman, David Edmonson, said.

Our ruling

Staples called Dewhurst the first lieutenant governor of Texas to have a personal security detail.

That appears so.

Still, Staples’ statement could leave the impression that Dewhurst arranged for something unique for his own benefit. In contrast, Dewhurst was quoted years ago as saying that he did not initiate the protection and initially declined it. Also, Staples did not acknowledge that Capitol security was beefed up in various ways in 2010 and 2011 or that Dewhurst wasn’t alone in gaining a protective detail.

We rate this claim, which lacked these clarifications, as Mostly True.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

Our Sources

Emails, Bryan Black, spokesperson, Todd Staples campaign, Jan. 29, 2014

News story, "Day 1 brings light moments, dark clouds," the Dallas Morning News, Jan. 12, 2011 (Nexis search)

News story, "DPS adds top officials to guard list; Dewhurst, Straus, Abbott now protected," Austin American-Statesman, Jan. 14, 2011 (accessed Jan. 28, 2014, using Merlin search engine)

Commentary, "If You Like Airport Security, Then Take a Trip to the Capitol," Ross Ramsey, the Texas Tribune, Jan. 14, 2011

News story, "Shots fired at Texas Capitol; no injuries reported," the Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2010

Telephone interview, Bill Hobby, Houston, Jan. 29, 2014

Telephone interview, Bill Ratliff, Jan. 29, 2014

Email, Andrew Barlow, communications director,. Lt. Gov David Dewhurst, Jan. 29, 2014

Email, Tom Vinger, press secretary, Media and Communications Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Jan. 29, 2014

Telephone interview, David Edmonson, communications director, Sen. Rodney Ellis, Austin, Jan. 30, 2014

Telephone interviews, Erin Daly, press secretary, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, Austin, Jan. 30, 2014

Telephone interview, Jerry Strickland, communications director, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Austin, Jan. 30, 2014

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More by W. Gardner Selby

David Dewhurst appears to be first lieutenant governor with state security detail, but he's said he initially declined it

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