DALLAS — On this final weekend before Tuesday's Texas primary, charges of racial politics broke out in the Republican race for U.S. Senate.
Candidate Ted Cruz, whose father emigrated from Cuba, angrily denied he supports amnesty for illegal immigrants, as a radio ad by challenger David Dewhurst claims.
But this is a risky exchange for both candidates.
Illegal immigration is a hot-button issue for Republican primary voters, so Cruz was quick to respond at a Fort Worth news conference.
"It is an absolute, bald-faced, naked lie that David Dewhurst is spreading," Cruz said, stating that he opposes amnesty.
Yet Dewhurst's campaign said Cruz sits on the boards of two Hispanic advocacy groups that promote economic opportunity and amnesty.
The radio ad claims: "Cruz helps run two national organizations that have been leading the push to give amnesty to illegal immigrants."
On WBAP Radio's "Ben Ferguson Show" Friday, Dewhurst stood by the ad.
"Every statement, we fact-checked it over, and over, and over again," Dewhurst said. "Every statement is true."
This isn't the first questionable claim in this campaign.
Cruz repeatedly charges that Dewhurst favors a state income tax; Dewhurst's record shows he doesn't.
Yet the Cruz campaign and some of his tea party supporters — like Garland Tea Party founder Katrina Pierson — say the amnesty charge amounts to race-baiting.
"As a minority, I think it's disgusting," she said.
If some voters agree, Dewhurst could be denied the margin he needs to reach a majority and avoid a runoff.
But there's also risk for Cruz.
When Victor Carrillo, then Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, lost in the 2010 primary, he blamed Republican voters' bias against his Hispanic surname.
Cruz wasn't ready personally to say that Dewhurst is making ethnicity an issue.
"Ultimately, that's a question the voters of Texas are going to have to decide," Cruz said.
But the Dewhurst campaign said Cruz is "attempting to play the victim again."
The question is whether GOP voters will view either as victims on Tuesday.