Posted on April 4, 2014 at 3:05 PM
Updated today at 4:12 PM

DALLAS – A Republican state representative predicts Sen. Dan Patrick will soften his tone on illegal immigration in an upcoming debate with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

“He really does want to understand this population better," said Republican Rep. Jason Villalba at a taping of "Inside Texas Politics" to air at 9 a.m. Sunday on WFAA. "He really does want to articulate this message better and learn how to better engage. I think you’re going to see a different Dan Patrick in that debate. I think you’ll see some things you haven’t seen before from him."

"There is no change in Sen. Dan Patrick’s position on immigration," said Allen Blakemore, Patrick's general consultant. "It’s about public safety and the rule of law. But, when you have an opportunity to really hear his message, I think a lot of people will be surprised."

Villalba sent Patrick and his three lieutenant governor primary opponents an open letter before the election urging them to reduce their anti-immigration rhetoric so as to not alienate Hispanic voters.

“I’ve had a chance to speak with Dan Patrick about concerns I’ve had regarding that language," Villalba said. "He really understood that message in that letter I sent to him. He understands he’s got to be a little more understanding and engaging.”

Patrick challenged Castro to an immigration debate after an exchange on Twitter in which the mayor called the senator “the most anti-immigrant Republican running for state office.”

The two agreed to meet in San Antonio on April 15.

Patrick wants to increase penalties on illegal immigration, discourage illegal hiring practices and repeal a law the Republican-led legislature passed that gives in-state tuition to undocumented students.

“You’re going to see the same old Dan, but you’re going to hear his entire plan in a one-hour discussion rather than a just get a sound bite or quote," Blakemore said.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democrat nominee for lieutenant governor, told "Inside Texas Politics" that the Republican rhetoric alienates Hispanic voters.

“The rhetoric that’s been used on illegal immigration is costing Texas jobs,” she told the WFAA program. “They don’t realize we’ve got $720 million a day in trade with Mexico.”

Van de Putte said she must raise five to six million dollars to be competitive against the eventual Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Patrick is the front runner in a May 27th runoff against incumbent David Dewhurst.

Still, Van de Putte admitted she and Democrats have work to do in the Rio Grande Valley. Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis placed second to Ray Madrigal, a little known candidate.

“They just didn’t know Wendy Davis,” Van de Putte explained about voters in the valley. “I think when they get to know her they’re going to see what I see. I think they’ll be very supportive.”

Watch both interviews at 9 a.m. Sunday on WFAA's "Inside Texas Politics."