Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dewhurst, Cruz spar in final debate of Senate campaign - Fort Worth Star Telegram

DALLAS - Republicans David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz began their final showdown debate tonight by jousting over who would be more of a fighter in the U.S. Senate.

"You won't find anyone at this table more firm or more of a fighter than me," Dewhurst, the state's lieutenant governor, said. "I served in the military...there's a difference between being a debater and a fighter."Cruz, the former Texas Solicitor General, said he has the record of a fighter for the state's interests, pointing to legal cases of a political nature that he worked on."It's easy to talk about the second amendment...it's easy to talk about us sovereignty," Cruz said.Dewhurst dismissed those cases as a lawyer taking orders from Attorney General Greg Abbott."I know you've made your legal record the cornerstone of your campaign but contrast that with someone like myself," Dewhurst said, pointing to his past as a businessman and work in the Legislature.The Republican runoff for U.S. Senate has emerged as one of the hottest, most well funded races in the country. Tonight's televised showdown is expected to be their last televised debate before the July 31 runoff election.When the race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Senate kicked into high gear last year, political analysts expected Dewhurst, the candidate with the most name recognition and most personal dollars to help fund a campaign, to run away with the Republican Party's nomination for the job.But Cruz, a scrappy lawyer and Tea Party darling, not only forced a runoff election, but some recent polls now show him ahead of Dewhurst.The winner of this Republican primary moves on to the November general election and faces the winner of the Democratic primary runoff, which now pits former state Rep. Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough and will also be decided July 31.Political observers say anything could happen in this middle-of-the-summer election, which is expected to see a record low turnout, even for runoff elections.In the May 29 primary, Dewhurst picked up 44.6 percent of the vote in a nine-way GOP race, to the 34 percent Cruz earned.This fierce, multi-million race for Texas' first open U.S. Senate seat in a decade has become increasingly nasty, touching on everything from honesty to hypocrisy. Political observers expect the winner of the Republican primary to win the November race, since Democrats haven't won a statewide office in Texas in nearly 20 years.In the midst of a slew of negative advertising on both sides, two recent telephone polls show Cruz leading Dewhurst - one by Public Policy Polling that shows Cruz with 49 percent to Dewhurst's 44 percent and one by Citizens United Political Victory Fund that puts Cruz at 48 percent to Dewhurst's 38 percent.Both candidates are working to attack each other's credibility, with Dewhurst's campaign charging that Cruz hid his work for an "evil client" and Cruz's workers claiming Dewhurst is a hypocrite about his position on immigration.A recent Internet ad by Dewhurst, "What is Ted Cruz Hiding," focuses on reports that Cruz faces a $200 fine for filing personal financial documents past deadline and details his work for Pennsylvania developer Robert Mericle, who was involved in the "kids for cash" scandal. Cruz workers have said the late filing was an administrative mistake and his work for Mericle was over breach of contract.Dewhurst has charged that half the money supporting Cruz comes from Washington, which sparked fiery responses from the Cruz camp and claims that Dewhurst has collected more than his fair share of money from lobbyists. Dewhurst earlier this month also noted that Cruz "hasn't said one thing that's true so far in this campaign." And nearly every Texas Senate Republican signed a letter stating that Cruz was misstating the Senate's accomplishments last session.Cruz maintains that Dewhurst is giving Texans the wrong impression about his work in legislative sessions, and his positions on key items. His campaign released a new ad, "Dewhurst deceives on payroll tax," saying that while Dewhurst claims he never backed a payroll tax, past news reports indicate that he has. Dewhurst staffers say those charges are "misleading."Cruz's staff also has spotlighted how Dewhurst's staff recently pulled speeches from the state website, including one from several years ago where Dewhurst voiced support for a guest worker program for illegal immigrants. Dewhurst's staff said the speeches are routinely archived and were not removed to hide anything. Cruz, who has criticized Dewhurst throughout the campaign for not participating in more debates, also has said Dewhurst made "false attacks" against him regarding amnesty.As far as money goes, Dewhurst reported raising $1.5 million between May 10 and the end of June, for a total of $7.9 million overall, which includes millions Dewhurst invested in his own campaign. He has gained support from GOP leaders such as Gov. Rick Perry and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.Cruz reported raising $1.7 million during the last period - more than Dewhurst - and $7.6 million overall, less than Dewhurst, records show. He has drawn the support of many within the Tea Party as well as leaders including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.Early voting for the July 31 primary starts Monday.Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610Twitter: @annatinsley

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