On Friday night, the top four Republican candidates for U.S. Senate will meet for the Belo Debate.
But on Wednesday, one of them was accused of trying to rig a question.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Tom Leppert, Ted Cruz and Craig James are set to face-off in the debate that will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on WFAA Channel 8. But James says Cruz asked for a set-up question to attack Dewhurst.
Unlike the January debate sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, the candidates on Friday will ask each other questions in one segment. A random drawing set up James to pose a question to Cruz.
But on Wednesday, James personally received an unexpected text from Cruz.
"The whole idea of trying to rig the system put me in a position where I couldn't stand by," James said.
In the text provided by the James campaign, Cruz wrote:
"Since you're asking me a Q, it might be worth asking me something about Dew skipping 31 debates (or something else related to his record). Just an idea.... Ted."
Dewhurst, who is the front-runner, has not attended many of the candidate forums, saying he's busy with state business, or will meet voters on his own.
Cruz often attacks Dewhurst for skipping joint events, and so does James. But James says a "set-up" question for what's meant to be unrehearsed is not the way to do it.
"David Dewhurst has not shown courage of not showing up at these debates, so I agree with the concept but that we're going to go together and work toward something conniving that just isn't right," James said.
Without responding, the text was ethical. A Cruz spokesman said:
"Ted simply suggested another candidate talk about Dewhurst's record of skipping 32 debates. All candidates are clearly free to discuss any topic they wish."
A Dewhurst spokesman said:
"This is unfortunately what Texans have come to expect from Ted Cruz. If he's not taking credit for Attorney General Greg Abbott's record, Cruz is rigging yet another debate."
The Dewhurst camp refers to the January debate where sponsors did not allow charts or props, yet Cruz read repeatedly from notes that James called out.
"I didn't think we were supposed to bring any papers," James said pointing to Cruz.
The Belo Debate will also not allow candidates to bring along notes or props, but they are encouraged to bring good questions for each other.
The rest of the questions will be posed by a panel of journalists.
The statewide televised debate is scheduled in advance of the May 29 Texas Primary.