HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been less than a day since former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz forced a runoff against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the vacant U.S. Senate seat, but that doesn’t mean the campaigning has taken a break.
In Houston, both Dewhurst and Cruz began throwing political punches Wednesday. Dewhurst said his record shows he helped create the business environment for the booming Texas economy.
“Contrast that with a lawyer who has ties to the Washington insiders,” he said. “In a runoff, I think we win … this race is a clear, clear contrast between a lawyer with special interest Washington ties and a Texas conservative businessman that has fought for Texans over the years, helped create the best economy.”
Cruz rejects that argument –– he also ignores complaints from Dewhurst supporters who aren’t happy Cruz received Sarah Palin’s endorsement.
“I can tell you I’m proud to have support from conservatives all across this country,” he said. “If you think the answer to what’s going on in Washington is to send another moderate establishment incumbent politician, you have a choice. And if you think the answer is to send a strong conservative and fighter, I think you have an easy choice.”
In Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton Counties combined, Cruz won 3,000 more votes than Dewhurst. The Lieutenant Governor hinted that former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s supporters in North Texas cost him votes.
Leppert dropped out of the race early after falling thousands of votes behind his two main competitors.
During the first part of the primary, Dewhurst was also criticized for not showing up at candidate forums. Now, Cruz has challenged Dewhurst to five debates before the July 31 runoff vote.
“As I understand it, he suggested let’s do more than five. We have nine weeks, I’d be glad to do one a week for each of those nine weeks,” Cruz said.
Dewhurst said he would agree to Cruz’s request when asked about it.
“You know the man must be scared of me; just five?,” Dewhurst asked. “I said earlier, I’ll debate Mr. Cruz anytime he wants as long as we got a TV station willing to sponsor it statewide.”
Political analysts say the runoff resets the race. Some believe Cruz may have more loyal voters who will go to the poll a second time.
But others say Dewhurst has enough name recognition and visibility in his role as Lieutenant Governor to win the GOP nomination.
The winner between Dewhurst and Cruz will face the winner of Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough, who will also go to a runoff to determine the Democratic Party’s nomination.
Texas has not elected a Democrat to that U.S. Senate seat since 1988.