HOUSTON -

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and three fellow Republicans running for lieutenant governor kept things largely civil during their first debate.

Indeed, the four often struggled to find key issues on which they disagreed during the Tuesday night debate in Houston.

Dewhurst, who oversees the state Senate, bragged about helping secure nearly 50 tax cuts since taking office in 2003.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, a tea party favorite from Houston, vowed to ram red-meat conservative proposals through the Legislature if elected. Among them are allowing guns to be carried on college campuses and making state tax dollars available for tuition assistance for charter, religious or private schools.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said he wouldn't allow "environmental Nazis" to use federal and state wildlife protections to limit oil and natural gas exploration. But he also stressed that he was far from a single-issue candidate.

State Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said he successfully stood up for ranchers on the Texas-Mexico border whose property was in danger of being overrun by drug cartels.