Tonight KCEN-TV broadcast the debate between the candidates for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary. Lincoln-Douglas it was not. Still, the debate had its memorable moments. One was delivered by Dan Patrick, when he said, “The tea party is the greatest thing that has happened to America.” Well, I can think of greater things without much difficulty. The Bill of Rights. The Normandy invasion. Brown v. Board of Education. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Senator Patrick, but the tea party is a flash in the pan, and it will disappear in another presidential election cycle or two.

To his credit, Todd Staples spoke forcefully about education. “We absolutely need to make certain that we’re challenging our students at every level,” he said. Too often Republican party rhetoric tends to focus on hot-button issues. Staples reminded people about what really matters. Our students are the future. Staples also quoted Jefferson: “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” Then he took a shot at Dewhurst: “We need someone as lieutenant governor who just doesn’t throw money at a problem.” If we don’t spend money, how are we ever going to build more roads or enhance our water supplies?

Jerry Patterson has always been one of my favorite politicians, but I thought he was a little over the top when he said that the Bill of Rights “came to us from God, particularly the Tenth Amendment.” Patterson vowed to “overhaul the property tax system. We could broaden the sales tax and produce more income,” he said. “Overreliance on property taxes and appraisal district reform are holding us back. Ever-increasing property taxes are holding us back.”

Patrick was asked, “How will you, as lieutenant governor, promote the Second Amendment?” This was a real softball for Patrick. He answered that he had passed 7 gun bills. “It is the number-one issue any elected official must have.” Patrick followed this up with, “If they could Democrats would take every gun we have.”

Patrick unsuccessfully attacked Dewhurst on the size of the state budget. Dewhurst responded immediately: “I’m proud of our budget. The comptroller just said that we have a $2 billion surplus.” This was a pretty strong rebuttal by the lieutenant governor. I have seen Dewhurst in a lot of debates, and he usually wins. I thought it was pretty clear he won the debate last night, handily.