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Patrick Denies 2018 Plans, Says He Will ‘Never’ Run Against Abbott

Courtesy: Office of the Governor

AUSTIN — The first legislative session under Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ended Monday with Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the powerful Senate leader and a Tea Party favorite, dousing rumors that he was already plotting to challenge Abbott in 2018.

Patrick embodied the rightward shift in Texas politics over the past 140 days. He also took the unusual step of assembling an advisory board of big-money donors whose support would be crucial if he sought higher office. “I love this job. I love working with Gov. Abbott,” Patrick said. “We are close friends. We formed a great partnership. I will never be running against Greg Abbott for governor.”

Tea Party activists have complained that more wasn’t done to further restrict abortion, limit gay marriage ahead of U.S. Supreme Court decision, tighten immigration laws and expand school choice. It all fueled speculation that Patrick could hit Abbott from the right in the GOP gubernatorial primary in three years.

Abbot spent the final day, meanwhile, dousing the hopes of marijuana reform advocates by saying that Texas won’t legalize pot for medical or recreational use on his watch. His defiance came while signing a bill that legalizes cannabis oil for epilepsy patients. “As governor, I will not allow it,” Abbott said.

Democrats grumbled that far bigger priorities are being stonewalled. Republicans gave only a small bump to school funding and virtually ignored health care. The criticism came not only from Texas but in Washington, where Democratic Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro took a shot at his former colleagues. “Today marks the end of perhaps the worst legislative session in Texas history,” Castro tweeted.

Rep. Tan Parker, chairman of the House Republican Caucus, shrugged off calls that more could have been done. “Conservative Republicans can and should be proud of this record,” he said.

Unlike the previous 14 years under Rick Perry, lawmakers aren't being marched into a special summer session to duke out contentious issues such as immigration and abortion. “You can't really leave the session with disappointment,” said House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican. “Thousands of bills are filed, and I’m guessing about 20 percent of those have passed. I’m grateful for a system that isn’t too loose.” (AP)