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Thursday, March 12, 1998

Dewhurst wins GOP nomination for land commissioner

By CHIP BROWN / Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN (AP) -- Houston businessman David Dewhurst upped the ante in the Republican primary for land commissioner, and it paid off.

After spending $2 million on television advertising, Dewhurst, a first-time candidate, narrowly avoided a runoff and clinched the GOP nomination for land commissioner.

With all precincts reporting, Dewhurst had 265,352 votes or 51 percent.

State Sen. Jerry Patterson, R-Pasadena, had 216,200 votes or 42 percent.

Candidates who don't get more than half of the votes cast must face a runoff against the second-place vote getter.

Don Loucks, a former Air Force pilot and ex-congressional aide to Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, ran third with 36,655 votes or 7 percent.

In the Democratic primary, Richard Raymond, a state representative from Benavides, was unopposed.

The land commissioner oversees more than 20 million acres of public lands in Texas, including mineral rights that help pay for public education, as well as loan programs for veterans and coastal management.

The candidates were seeking to replace four-term Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, the Democratic nominee for governor.

Dewhurst, 52, who guaranteed a $1.25 million loan to his campaign, was criticized by Patterson and Loucks for running a campaign based on television ads full of hopeful themes but devoid of substance.

"I have built a career in business on substance," Dewhurst said. "We talked specifics in all of my speeches and there is no question that the voters of Texas liked what they heard."

Patterson and Dewhurst raised roughly the same amount of money from outside sources -- about $500,000 -- but Dewhurst then spent his own money on top of that, airing TV ads since last December.

Patterson never aired a TV ad.

"He (Dewhurst) took his greatest asset, his finances, and used it effectively," Patterson said. "That's his constitutional right. But for all the money he spent, he barely avoided a runoff."

Patterson vowed to run for land commissioner again in the future.

Dewhurst, founder of the energy and investment company Falcon Seaboard, said he wants to cut the size of the General Land Office while generating more money from the state's mineral rights for education. He said he also wants to increase participation by veterans in low-interest loan programs.

Raymond said he would make education the central issue of his campaign. He accused Dewhurst of telling state leaders that addressing problems in eduation is not his problem.

"It is time to realize that education is all our responsibility," Raymond said. "And I don't care how many millions you have Mr. Dewhurst, Texans aren't going to buy off on a state leader who would run away from our public schools."

Dewhurst, who made education a campaign theme early on, said Raymond was jumping on the bandwagon late.

"I'm glad Mr. Raymond has finally acknowledged what I have been saying all along, that education is important," Dewhurst said.

Raymond is also pushing for a constitutional amendment to prevent the privatization of Texas beaches and is attempting to use low-interest loans as an incentive to get veterans to teach in Texas classrooms.

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