DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/THE TEXAS TRIBUNE) – A political surprise in the Republican run-off in for the U.S. Senate seat in Texas came after an hourlong debate Tuesday.
Previous U.S. Senate candidate and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert endorsed Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst after it wrapped up. Leppert appeared at a news conference following the final televised debate between Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz.
Leppert says he hopes his supporters will follow his lead and vote for Dewhurst.
During the debate, Dewhurst and Cruz argued over Dewhurst’s record in office and the negative ads. Leppert says he respects Cruz, but says he prefers Dewhurst’s business and legislative experience.
“What it takes is people who have an experience base, who’ve created jobs, actually understand what it means to balance budgets, and how you put together an economy, and the Lieutenant Governor does that,” Leppert said.
In response, Cruz stood in front of a crowd of his supporters saying, “Congratulations to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. You know on some level it’s not surprising. A great number of the elected officials in the state of Texas are supporting David Dewhurst. My support isn’t coming from the elected officials. Our support is coming from grassroots conservatives,” Cruz said.
Dewhurst praised Leppert, saying he did a great job in Dallas.
But during the earlier campaign, Dewhurst’s team created a website calling Leppert a liberal. Dewhurst said he has since apologized to Leppert.
CBS 11 political analyst John Weekley says endorsements don’t normally matter, but that this could be a big boost for the Lieutenant Governor.
That’s because Leppert drew a lot of support in North Texas. This is also a close race, one in which Cruz is now leading.
Weekley says Cruz’s supporters are more loyal and energized, which could give him an edge. But Weekley says it’s not too late for Dewhurst to come back.
LIVEBLOG by Aman Batheja, of The Texas Tribune
The candidates sparred over their possible ties to China.
Cruz accused Dewhurst of airing ads with “false personal attacks” regarding Cruz’s involvement as an appellate lawyer defending a Chinese tire company found liable for intellectual property theft. Dewhurst said he stood by the ads.
Cruz then effectively changed the subject by asking Dewhurst how much money he has invested in china or oversesas.
Dewhurst said he didn’t know. When asked again, he said he didn’t believe he had any investments in China at the present time. Cruz accused Dewhurst of having $200 million “shrouded in secrecy.” Dewhurst said he had taken his money out of a blind trust upon entering the U.S. Senate race and that all of his investments were now public.
The candidates were asked if they were in the U.S. Senate when John Roberts was up for confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, would they have voted to confirm him if they knew he would have voted the way he did to keep President Obama’s healthcare reform legal.
Dewhurst said he would have voted against Roberts in that hypothetical situation. He accused Roberts of “contorting logic” to keep “Obamacare” legal.
Cruz, who has known Roberts for years and described him as a friend, said he also would not have voted for Roberts in that situation.
Debate moderator Brad Watson explored one of the few areas where the candidates disagree: building a wall across the U.S. southern border. Cruz supports building one. Dewhurst supports building one in certain areas of the border where it would be most effective.
Watson told Cruz that building the wall just along the Texas border could cost $7.3 billion, according to one estimate. Was supporting such an endeavor fiscally conservative?
Cruz said it was because Texans are tired of the federal government failing on securing the border.
Dewhurst spoke about who he advocates for tripling the border patrol and building walls in certain areas.
Dewhurst was on the defensive about whether he supports a guest worker program. Moderator Gromer Jeffers pointed to a 2007 speech in which Dewhurst expressed support for such a program. He then aired footage of Dewhurst saying he opposes such a program until the border is secured.
Dewhurst said there was no change in his position, implying that he believes no guest worker program should be enacted until the border is secure.
“This federal government can’t do two things at once,” Dewhurst said.
Cruz accused Dewhurst of trying to hide his record by removing the speech from his website. Dewhurst said the speeches were archived and still available to anyone who contacts his office.
“To imply that there was anything improper done, well I’m not the one who was just fined by the Senate ethics committee,” Dewhurst said.
Cruz said he paid a $200 fee for being late on a personal finance form.
The two candidates began by going over who will serve as 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 said. “I served in the military…there’s a difference between being a debater and a fighter.”
Cruz said he has the record, 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 candidates are seated at a small table with the moderaters. Cruz and Dewhurst are facing each other.