Texas U.S. Senate Candidates Debate
AUSTIN (AP) - The Texas Republican candidates running for U.S. Senate expressed few policy differences while debating Thursday night, but did their best to show differences in style and experience.
The two Democratic candidates appeared on the same stage but offered diametrically opposed answers to questions about taxes, immigration and the other main issues during a debate that was broadcast statewide.
Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz acknowledged as much when he repeatedly asked the audience to look past the rhetoric and question each candidate’s records. Cruz focused most of his attention contrasting himself with front-runner Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, suggesting that if elected he would be the stronger conservative in Washington.
But it was Cruz’s record that came under scrutiny when moderators from Houston public radio’s KUHF asked him about his legal work for a Chinese tire company in its appeal against a $26 million judgment that it had stolen intellectual property from an American tire company. Cruz said he was one of several attorneys on the case and that he had represented American companies against Chinese firms as well.
Houston Public Media called the program “A Conversation with the Candidates,” and public radio and television stations across the state relayed the broadcast. Two reporters interviewed the four Republican candidates and two Democrats for 12 minutes and then posed questions in more typical debate format.
Democrats Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard also agreed on the issues, but still posed a stark contrast. Sadler is a seasoned former state legislator, while Hubbard is a 31-year-old party activist. Both expressed support for President Barack Obama’s health care laws, Planned Parenthood clinics and allowing tax cuts to expire for the nation’s wealthiest residents.
Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former ESPN football analyst Craig James rounded out the Republicans.
While the candidates from the same party agreed on most things, the differences between Republicans and Democrats could not be starker.
Republicans said they would not compromise on most issues, which Sadler called typical Washington partisanship.
Moderators asked the candidates about keeping student loan rates low, abortion rights, raising social security taxes, increasing taxes on the wealthy and a pathway to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.
The four Republicans opposed all of those things, while the Democrats support them.
“What you have in government is a problem, and that problem has a solution,” Sadler said. “And that solution can from the most conservative member and it can come from the most liberal member, but as long as you are searching for the solution, you’ll find good legislation and you’ll solve the problem.”
In his attempt to set himself apart, Leppert pitched his experience as a career businessman before entering politics.
“I don’t only talk about creating jobs and cutting spending, I’ve actually done it,” the former Dallas mayor said.
Leppert suggested that Texans needed a senator who wasn’t a career politician like Dewhurst, lacking in business experience like Cruz, or inexperienced holding elected office like James.
James, the former ESPN analyst, said his lack of experience was a virtue because he would represent the common person’s views. He said he felt a “calling” to run for the Senate.
“I am a believer in my faith and I didn’t want to let the Lord down,” he said, when asked why he chose to run.
But the greatest tension was between Dewhurst and Cruz, who exchanged veiled and some not-so-veiled attacks on each other. Dewhurst accused Cruz of distorting his nine-year record as lieutenant governor, while Cruz called Dewhurst a flat-out liar over his campaign commercial’s attacking Cruz’s work for the Chinese tire company.
Dewhurst has the most name recognition of all the candidates and a personal fortune to finance his campaign. The other Republicans hope to keep Dewhurst from winning more than 50 percent of the vote and force a run-off. The primary election is scheduled for May 29.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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