May 16, 2014 Updated: May 16, 2014 at 11:01 pm
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A political rival of Republican Dan Patrick, the favorite to become the next Texas lieutenant governor, escalated an already rancorous primary runoff Friday by releasing medical records showing the Houston state senator struggling with depression in the 1980s.
Early voting begins Monday. The disclosure of Patrick's treatment and an apparent suicide attempt drew rebuke from several GOP senators who had previously steered clear of an increasingly acrimonious race for one of the most powerful offices in Texas, which Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is fighting to keep after 12 years on the job.
Patrick, who founded the tea party in the Senate after arriving in 2007, acknowledged voluntarily admitting himself for depression and said the released records had backfired on what he characterized as attempts to question his ability to serve.
"Some of prescribed medications exacerbated my condition and created more serious problems," Patrick said in a statement. "Through prayer and with the help of my family and physician, like millions of other Americans, I was able to defeat depression."
Patrick, who said he has not been treated or medicated for depression in 30 years, did not directly address the reported suicide in his statement.
The records were given to reporters by Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who finished last in a four-way primary race for lieutenant governor in March. He has since waged a scorched-earth campaign against Patrick, who easily finished first in the primary but fell short of an outright victory over Dewhurst.
Dewhurst, who's held the powerful Texas office since 2002, denied being complicit in making Patrick's medical history public. He said in a statement that Patterson released the documents — which were part of the court record in a 1989 lawsuit Patrick filed against a newspaper reporter — over his objections.
The records total more than 150 pages and include an emergency room assessment at a Houston hospital, dated January 1986, in which a nurse wrote that Patrick stated he had swallowed 35 tablets of an antidepressant and was attempting suicide. Patrick had changed his mind and was "awake, alert" with "superficial lacerations" on his wrists, according to the nurse's note.
Jacob Monty, an attorney in Houston for the reporter whom Patrick sued in that case, said the records were authentic.
Patterson, whose loss in March secured his ouster from Texas politics after two decades, called Patrick a "pathological liar" and said voters needed to know about his medical history.
Patrick called Patterson a hapless surrogate, though Dewhurst maintained he hadn't wanted Patterson to release the records.
In a statement, the Dewhurst campaign said: "My heart goes out to Dan and his family for what they've endured while coping with his condition."
Texas is on the verge of its biggest political shake-up in two decades, with every statewide office up for grabs and Gov. Rick Perry leaving office after 14 years. Dewhurst, who was first elected in 2002, is the only incumbent who could survive, but he must overcome finishing 13 points behind Patrick in the primary.
The campaigns have traded slings over financial debts and accusations of lies. A hostile debate last week largely devolved into both candidates talking over each other.
Republican Jane Nelson, who chairs the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee, broke her silence in the race and called the disclosure an invasion of medical privacy. She said it hit "a new low in Texas politics."
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the political compass of the GOP in Texas, said during a visit in Austin that he was staying out of the race but urged candidates to steer clear of personal attacks.
"I would encourage every candidate in that race and every other race to stay positive," Cruz said.
The winner faces Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte in November.
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