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Pundits Predict Debate With Geraldo Will Benefit Lieutenant Governor's Campaign

Ryan E. Poppe
Dan Patrick

Political experts predict Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s decision to debate immigration issues with Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera instead of his Democratic rival will actually benefit Patrick’s re-election bid.

When he first ran for lieutenant governor in 2014, Patrick challenged San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to a debate over immigration. Now, four years later, speaking on Fox News, Patrick challenged Geraldo Rivera to a debate on the same topic.

While Patrick wasn’t running against Castro that year, the debate significantly raised his politically profile.  


Patrick's challenge followed Rivera’s comments about the death of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts, who authorities believe was killed by an undocumented immigrant.


Brandon Rottinhaus, political science professor for the University of Houston, said it’s a move that could politically benefit Patrick’s campaign.  


“A big reason why Dan Patrick was successful in 2014 was that he put this issue front and center. So border security is absolutely bread and butter, and his base is absolutely rallied by this,” Rottinhaus said.


But while Patrick is willing to debate Rivera, he is not willing to debate Democratic opponent Mike Collier in Houston that same month.


And Rottinhaus said that only hurts Collier’s campaign at this point.


“Patrick has got a double-digit lead; he’s got a quadruple amount of money. This is the kind of a race where it’s hard to get enough support from the public if you don’t have the oxygen to talk about the issues you care about,” Rottinhaus said.


Patrick tweeted that he would fly to New York City for a nationally televised 30-minute face-to-face debate with Rivera on either Sept. 4 or Sept. 5.


Rivera responded that he agreed to those terms.


Ryan Poppe can be reached at rpoppe@tpr.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe1