TEXAS — Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, looking beyond a failed run for the U. S. Senate, announced Tuesday that he plans to seek re-election as lieutenant governor.
Dewhurst's disclosure removed any lingering uncertainty about his political future following his loss to former state solicitor Ted Cruz in the Republican Senate run-off last month.
Dewhurst revealed his plans to reporters after telling Texas convention delegates that he planned to work hard to help Cruz defeat Democrat Paul Sadler in the November general election.
Dewhurst got a rousing reception at the delegates' morning meeting and received standing ovations before and after his speech to the group.
"I want to congratulate Ted Cruz for his victory," Dewhurst said. "I want to make sure he racks up a big win against Democrat trial lawyer Paul Sadler."
There had been some speculation that Dewhurst might consider running for governor if long-serving incumbent Rick Perry decides against seeking re-election. But Perry has hinted that he may seek another term in 2014 as well as a second run for president in 2016.
Dewhurst, a wealthy Houston businessman who became lieutenant governor in 2003, would presumably be the front-runner in a Republican primary race that already includes Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
State Comptroller Susan Combs has also been mentioned as a possible candidate but Dewhurst's intentions to seek a fourth four-year term could prompt other prospective candidates to reassess. Dewhurst would be in office until January of 2019 if he wins reelection.
Lieutenant governor has often been described as the most powerful office in Texas since the occupant presides over the State Senate and directly influences the outcome of legislation.
"I enjoy working as hard as I can to move the state of Texas forward and to make it better and better and better," Dewhurst told reporters, saying he would continue to serve "as long as the people of Texas want me to do that."
Dewhurst also weighed in on one controversial issue that will likely face state lawmakers in 2013 as he expressed support for some form of a voucher system that he said would give parents more flexibility over their children's education.
"I personally don't have any problem with a program in which children's parents receive a payment from the state and are able to select which school they go to," he said.
Dewhurst said such a program could take the form of payments, tax credits or converting selected public schools to charter schools, but he added that "there are a lot of details that have to be worked out."
Critics of vouchers, which would give parents money to send their children to private schools, contend that such plans would erode public schools and distract from what they say is the state Republican leadership's failure to adequately fund education.
Dewhurst said he will vigorously support adequate funding for public schools but noted that the Texas Education Agency has judged 550 schools with 315,000 students to be unacceptable.
"I want to be sure these 315,000 students aren't trapped in failing schools," Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst reaffirmed statements he made following his loss in the Senate race that he would work aggressively to help Cruz prevail in November.
Cruz, a hero of grassroots conservatives and tea party activists, was scheduled to appear before delegates Tuesday night.
"I've met with Ted, I've spoken with Ted, and I stand ready to help him do whatever he wants," Dewhurst said. "He knows I'm a call away from campaigning with him and helping him raise money."